Democrats have criticised Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s annual policy address as aimed at pleasing Beijing rather than addressing the “pains and worries” of Hongkongers, saying they hope it will be her last.

Democratic Party chairman Lo Kin-hei expressed disappointment at Lam’s address on Wednesday, which was hailed by pro-establishment lawmakers as “visionary.” It was the second year for the Hong Kong leader to deliver her yearly outlook in the absence of opposition lawmakers, after the pan-democrats resigned en masse from the legislature last November.

Lo Kin-hei meets the press after Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivered the last Policy Address in her current term on October 6, 2021. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Lam’s term in office ends next June. She has not said whether she will seek a second term at an election in March and again refused to comment on Wednesday.

Lo said most proposals in Lam’s address focused on integration with mainland China, while “ignoring Hong Kong people’s pain and worries.” Hongkongers strongly mistrusted the government, the party leader said, but the chief executive did not seek reconciliation.

“In general, the Policy Address was a platform for her re-election. The audience is not the Hong Kong people… but the Central Government,” he said.

Lo cited the trend of Hongkongers emigrating overseas, saying Lam failed to address the issue. The address was “not something that Hong Kong people are hoping for,” he said.

“We genuinely hope that this is her last Policy Address in her life, because Hong Kong people have had enough for this term.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a press conference after delivering her 2021 Policy Address. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Commenting on Lam’s grand plan to turn new towns and developing areas in the New Territories into a “Northern Metropolis,” Lo said the government did not mention how much the mega-project would cost and how it would be funded. He also questioned whether the proposal was “for Hong Kong people.”

Lo added that while Lam emphasised the need to merge Hong Kong into the Greater Bay Area, she did not specify its future role of the city. He questioned whether Hong Kong would merely be a participant in the scheme to connect 11 cities or whether it would have the power to advocate policies.

“She didn’t talk about that,” Lo said.

Opposition-free legislature

Chan Kin-por, a pro-government lawmaker in the insurance sector, said the absence of democrats from the legislature meant this year’s policy address was “completely different” from those in the past. “The political climate that opposed any-and-all development plans — especially ones that would draw Hong Kong closer to China — would be labelled as ‘negative,’ so you couldn’t do anything,” he said. 

“The new political context means this policy address was able to absorb valuable opinions from the community, and offered a feeling that we have rolled up our sleeves to get to work,” Chan said. “The government hesitated to bring up plans for the Greater Bay Area, but they can do so now… without concerns that it would be labelled negatively by the opposition.” 

“We can now catch up on lost time,” he said.

Most of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition are in jail, in custody, have quit politics or are in self-exile abroad.

Beijing’s Greater Bay Area scheme aims to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities into an integrated economic and business hub to rival Silicon Valley.

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Kelly Ho

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.