One of the major questions facing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying after his Policy Address on Wednesday was whether he was repeatedly mentioning the Belt and Road Initiative in an effort to please Beijing and secure his re-election in 2017.
In his 2016 annual Policy Address, Leung mentioned the term 40 times. The address included 28 paragraphs on the policy – it was mentioned even more than the terms “Hong Kong” and “mainland”.
“If I do not propose some strategies for Hong Kong for the Belt and Road Initiative, and do not push the government and industries to fight for this opportunity, I believe it will not only be the Central Government who will be upset with me, but the 7.2 million Hong Kong people and companies of all sizes too,” Leung said.
He said that the Belt and Road Initiative was very important to Hong Kong’s economic and social development and that it is a “focus of cities around the world”.
Hong Kong people may not have time to understand the importance of the initiative, but the government must respond to it, he added.
The One Belt, One Road development strategy was unveiled by Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2013. It involves rejuvenating a land-based “silk road”, in tandem with a new “maritime silk road”, as part of an effort to increase China’s role on the world stage, increase its exports and connect countries across Eurasia.
Reporters challenged Leung as to why this year’s Policy Address, unlike previous ones, failed to include emphasis of the principle of One Country, Two Systems, Hong Kong people “ruling Hong Kong” and the city’s high degree of autonomy. But Leung rebuffed concerns.
“That comparison sounds like some Hong Kong people when they read the State Council work reports by the country’s leaders… when a few words went missing, [they think] it may mean the country’s main strategy has changed. It is absolutely not the case,” Leung replied.
“This year’s policy address emphasised that the high degree of autonomy is implemented fully – not partly – faithfully, and not selectively, according to the Basic Law,” He added that the government will not relax its focus on implementing these core principles.
He said that one of the examples was his involvement in pushing for an investigation of the missing bookseller case. He said he started following the case only a day after the Lee Bo missing person report was filed.
Despite reassurances, several lawmakers were escorted out of the Legislative Council chamber during the policy address after they demanded answers on the disappearance.
Leung did not state during the press conference whether he would run for another term as Chief Executive.