Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam announced a landmark development plan for Hong Kong’s border region with mainland China in the last annual policy speech in her current term.
The “Northern Metropolis” is meant to provide hundreds of thousands more homes and jobs, and create new connections across borders.
Lam’s government has come under renewed pressure to defuse Hong Kong’s housing problem. Private property is among the most expensive in the world, far beyond the reach of many Hong Kongers, who then face long waits for public housing.
Lam has also repeatedly defended Hong Kong’s National Security Act, which Beijing enacted last year, and changes to the electoral system, introduced by Beijing this year that reduced the number of seats in the Legislative Council elected on universal suffrage, and fixed a strict screening system to exclude candidates who deemed not “patriotic.”
His speech also included plans to reorganize several Hong Kong government departments, but said little about the ongoing pandemic.
Lam cited the impact of COVID-19 on Hong Kong’s tourism industry, and thanked the people of Hong Kong for their efforts in fighting the virus.
He said talks were still ongoing with authorities in mainland China about the possibility of two-way quarantine-free travel, but gave no details on how and when this might happen.
Towards the end of her speech, Lam seemed emotional, there was a pause as she talked about the difficult things at work.
In 2019 Lam attempted to introduce highly unpopular legislation that caused millions to take to the streets to protest against her.
After that, Beijing took strong action with the National Security Act and changes to the electoral system.
The crackdown has practically silenced opposition voices in the city – and invites US sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong government officials. [uh/ab]