Hong Kong’s highly contested extradition bill, which triggered months of protests, could not be withdrawn formally as the Legislative Council session turned chaotic on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam was supposed to deliver her annual address in the city’s parliament, but forced to suspend it after being heckled by the opposition members of the legislative council, BBC reports.
Aside from shouting pro-democracy chants and standing on tables, the opposition lawmakers also projected the message “Five demands – not one less” on the wall behind Lam while she attempted to begin addressing the chamber.
When she was again shouted down in her second attempt, she suspended the address altogether and ended up delivering the full speech in a recorded video. The clip was later made available on the government’s website.
The annual event maps out the government’s policy agenda for the next 12 months. It was the first time a chief executive of Hong Kong has failed to deliver the address in the chamber.
Just hours before the incident, Hong Kong protesters received a show of support from United States lawmakers, who passed a bill aimed at upholding human rights in the city.
Stopping Lam’s speech, however, effectively denied legislators their first opportunity to withdraw the controversial extradition bill. The legislative council has not sat since July when protesters first targeted the main parliamentary building.
In the recorded address, Lam stressed her commitment to “one country, two systems” — the parallel political system introduced in Hong Kong at the end of British rule. She also said calls for Hong Kong independence would not be tolerated, according to the Straits Times.
Noting that housing was the most urgent issue for Hong Kongers, Lam announced several housing and infrastructure policies.
Lam would later reject claims that her speech ignored the protesters’ demands. However, she noted that it was not the time to consider voting reform during a news conference after the address. She also insisted that Hong Kong has freedom of speech and freedom of the press without Chinese interference.
According to Lam, this moment might signal the end of Hong Kong’s political crisis. She added that the cover page of her policy address was bright blue, purportedly representing “the clear skies ahead.”
Featured Image via YouTube / CNA