11/26/2020, 13.23
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Carrie Lam places hopes in China for Hong Kong’s rebirth

by Paul Wang

In her annual government policy address, the head of the executive exalts the security law and imposes an oath for parliamentarians, judges, members of government offices, teachers. Push towards the integration of the Hong Kong economy into that of the "Great Bay". No politics in schools. No democratic reform on the horizon.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The head of the executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday presented her annual "policy address" to Legco (the parliament of the territory), a presentation of the program of the choices that her government will make in the coming months. Her words and proposals reveal that the future of Hong Kong will be increasingly entwined with that of China from an economic and political point of view.

Lam arrived in a half-empty the Legco chamber, since all the opposition representatives were missing in a boycott to contest the expulsion of four of their colleagues. Her speech was scheduled for October 14, but two days earlier she herself wanted to postpone it to have the chance to meet Xi Jinping and other leading officials in Beijing, to ensure Hong Kong's better prospects. However, according to observers in Hong Kong, Lam has received directions to further subdue the territory to Beijing, after a year of pro-democracy demonstrations and the passing of the national security law.

An oath

Lam devoted much of her speech - which lasted over two hours - to political aspects, saying it is time to "restore the constitutional order and political system [of Hong Kong] from chaos”, of the previous year. Specifying that Hong Kong can only be conceived under China,

The chief executive praised the new security law, which had "exceptional effectiveness" in putting the territory back in order and listed some directives for alignment with the government line of all parliamentarians, judges, members of government offices and teachers. A law is being prepared which will oblige all of them to swear to uphold the Basic Law (Hong Kong's constitution), and Beijing's sovereignty over the territory. Breaking the oath will lead to dismissal and criminal prosecution.

The security law will be strictly applied. At present, there are dozens of people arrested for violating this law, but there are even more - over 10,000 - arrested during the year for demonstrations and vandalism. Lam said she wanted to show leniency towards the younger ones. Out of more than 10 thousand arrested, about 4 thousand are students; half of them are middle and high school students. Out of all these judges released 19 boys and girls after issuing them a warning.

The Great Bay area

In obedience to the indications of Beijing, the Hong Kong economy will seek greater integration with Guangdong, especially the areas of Shenzhen and Zhuhai, to the point of participation in the projects of what is called "the Great Bay". Those projects mentioned by Lam include Hong Kong’s involvement in the International Airport through the activities of the domestic airport of Zhuhai; connecting the Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai stock exchanges; a subsidy to Chinese industries to hire 2,000 Hong Kong graduates, as well as a program to create hundreds of new jobs in the Great Bay.

To boost aid to the Hong Kong economy, which this year expects a reduction in GDP of 6.1 points, Lam has listed a reduction in taxes on purchases of commercial properties; a use of hotels as temporary housing for those waiting to receive public housing, along with a cash subsidy; a ten-year project to build 316 thousand public apartments.

Lam also reiterated her intention to continue the Lantau Tomorrow Vision project, which involves the construction of a metropolis on artificial islands. The project has often been criticized for its enormous cost and the risks it would cause to the environment.

No democratic reform

On the educational front, Lam stressed that politics has no place in schools and that a reform of curricula is necessary. In a reference to last year's demonstrations, the chief executive said that through politics, students are "misled to engage in illegal and violent acts, for which they have to take legal responsibilities that will impact on their lives".

On the demands for full democracy, which generated all the demonstrations of the previous year and those of Occupy Central in 2014, Lam said there will be no democratic reform until the constitutional and political order of the city is restored.

In any case, she specified, in the last year she remains as head of the executive, she has no plans for a policy of reform.

There have been varied reactions to her address: the pro-establishment and pro-Beijing group appreciated her emphases on the restoration of order; the democratic groups - absent from the Legco - said that the "policy address" shows Lam's obedience to Beijing more than her interest in the people of Hong Kong. Academics noted that the head of the executive avoided addressing the most serious problem: the division in parliament and the people's distrust of leadership.

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