Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam was forced to temporarily abandon delivering her policy address on Wednesday after pro-democracy lawmakers disrupted the start of her speech chanting slogans and calling for her resignation.
Ms Lam was expected to announce measures focused on the property market and other economic sweeteners in a bid to resolve more than four months of protests in the Chinese territory. She is now issuing the address by video.
Pro-democracy lawmakers held posters depicting Ms Lam with blood on her hands and chanted the protest slogan, “five demands, not one less” as she entered the chamber. Once inside, the legislators disrupted proceedings by heckling and projecting the slogan on to a wall. Two lawmakers wore masks featuring the face of Xi Jinping, China’s president. The disruption caused multiple adjournments.
The suspension comes just hours after the US House of Representatives on Tuesday voiced strong backing for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong by passing an act requiring the US to conduct annual reviews of the situation in the territory to assess whether it should still qualify for its preferential trade status from Washington.
The House decision on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act marks the latest effort from the US to put pressure on the Hong Kong government as it has attempted to suppress protests that have roiled the territory since June.
Ms Lam has struggled to resolve the crisis, which was sparked by the introduction of an extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for the first time. The protests — which started with largely peaceful rallies but have descended into increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police — have since expanded to include calls for an independent inquiry into the use of force by police and the right to elect the city’s leader.
“Today we used a projector to project the demands of the people on her body, on her face,” said Tanya Chan, a pro-democracy lawmaker who said Ms Lam had refused to respond to protesters’ demands. She used a speaker to broadcast to the chamber sounds of screams and exploding tear gas canisters recorded during the protests.
Ms Lam is Hong Kong’s most unpopular leader since the handover of the territory from British to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, according to a survey by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.
Hong Kong’s economy has been battered by the combined effects of the US-China trade war as the violent street battles have scared away tourists and shoppers. Retail sales dropped by almost a quarter in August in the largest fall on record and visitor numbers fell 40 per cent.