Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she will return to the Legislative Council (LegCo) each month to take questions from lawmakers, after she refused to attend the short meeting last month citing “insults” by democrats. Two weeks ago, the opposition quit en masse in protest of the government move to disqualify four lawmakers for being “unpatriotic.”

Lam announced the resumption of her monthly 30-minute Q&A session on Thursday as she answered questions from legislators on her 2020 policy address. It was the first time she had delivered the address without protests from opposition legislators.

Carrie Lam 2020 Policy Address
Carrie Lam attends a Q&A session at the Legislative Council on November 26, 2020. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The Hong Kong leader said that, since she took office in 2017, she has attended 14 short Q&A sessions and responded to 267 questions in LegCo, in addition to the 90-minute meeting with lawmakers once every three months.

Lam said that, by resuming the monthly meetings, she could directly understand the concerns of legislators and allow them to perform their constitutional duty of monitoring the government. She also pledged that the government will respond to follow-up questions by lawmakers within 30 days.

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“Because I value the relationship between the executive and legislative branches very much… during my term, I’m very willing to visit the Legislative Council more often,” Lam said on Thursday.

The chief executive’s announcement came a month after she told the state-backed Wen Wei Po in an interview that she would halt the regular Q&A sessions as she felt her presence had stirred conflict, adding that the meetings were not effective.

October 16 LegCo policy address protest
Democrats project protest slogan “Five demands, not one less” when Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivers the Policy Address 2019. Photo: Inmediahk.net, via CC 2.0.

“I represent the entire HKSAR. If there is conflict every time I enter the Legislative Council, or even let them [the pan-democrats]… insult me, why should I do these things?” Lam asked.

During Thursday’s meeting, the city’s leader gave credit to several pro-establishment lawmakers for policy suggestions, including Elizabeth Quat and Gary Chan of the largest pro-Beijing party, the DAB, Priscilla Leung of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong and Alice Mak of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions.

Carrie Lam 2020 Policy Address
Carrie Lam attends a Q&A session at the Legislative Council on November 26, 2020. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“These are good examples to show the executive branch and the legislative branch can have checks and balances on each other, co-ordinate with each other to do pragmatic work for citizens,” Lam said.

Pro-business lawmakers

Michael Tien of Roundtable told Lam that he hoped the chief executive would consider his suggestion and mention his name next time, adding that he would not “trick” her.

He also urged the government to review their anti-epidemic measures at the airport, such as taking two types of samples for Covid-19 testing to improve the accuracy of the results.

Paul Tse said Lam’s 24,000-word policy address demonstrated “vision,” but lacked measures that could solve the city’s pressing issues at hand. Tommy Cheung agreed with Tse, saying that the government should implement policies to address the shortage of doctors in the city.

Carrie Lam 2020 Policy Address
Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Abraham Shek of the real estate and construction constituency told Lam that she had popular support, saying she should not be “unhappy” because of the opinions of a small group of people. He said Lam’s policies should focus on the development of Hong Kong and the wellbeing of the general public.

Lam responded: “Whether citizens like me or not, I never let that become the principle of my governance. It is all about implementing One Country, Two Systems and for the good of Hong Kong.”

Asked when Covid-19 vaccines will be available in Hong Kong, Lam told lawmaker Jeffrey Lam that it was difficult for the government to provide a timetable. She said the most crucial steps in combating the pandemic would be conducting accurate virus testing, while citizens remain self-disciplined to keep their masks on and avoid crowded areas.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.