Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivered the last policy address of her current term on Wednesday. With the vision of a “Northern Metropolis,” Lam set out grand land development plans, as well as a proposal to restructure government departments and further integrate the city into China.

While some pro-establishment lawmakers hailed the chief executive’s speech, some critics slammed Lam over the lack of relief measures for the underprivileged, claiming she pandered to Beijing.

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

Back in 2017, Lam campaigned for the top job under the slogan “We Connect,” promising to engage with young people. Addressing the housing issue was another plank of her manifesto and featured heavily in her first policy address.

HKFP has tracked the frequency of several keywords throughout the chief executive’s five policy addresses.

“Development,” “land,” and “housing” remained the most popular themes throughout Lam’s speeches. “Development” appeared over 332 times in her five policy address speeches, whilst “land” appeared over 559 times and “housing” over 296 times.

In her latest address, Lam unveiled the “Northern Metropolis” project, a plan to provide more than 900,000 homes for some 2.5 million people in the northern part of the city along its border with mainland China.

The phrase “young people” appeared at least 53 times throughout the five addresses, especially after the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests, with the phrase appearing 21 times and 18 times in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

“Central Government” was another phrase which saw a significant increase in frequency in 2020 and 2021. The phrase was mentioned 65 times in Lam’s five policy addresses, but only one of those was before 2020.

“Freedom” and “human rights” appeared nine times and four times in the five speeches, with no mentions at all in 2018 and 2021. “Democracy” did not appear in any of Lam’s policy addresses, while “rule of law” had 39 appearances.

Frequencies of phrases in Chief Executive Carrie Lam's five policy addresses
Frequencies of phrases in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s five policy addresses.

“National security” appeared three times before 2019, but 36 times after 2019.

“National security law” appeared 23 times between 2020 and 2021 whilst “universal suffrage” has never been mentioned in any of Lam’s five policy addresses.

Frequencies of phrases in Chief Executive Carrie Lam's five policy addresses.
Frequencies of phrases in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s five policy addresses.

Beijing inserted the national security law into Hong Kong’s Basic Law last year. The sweeping legislation criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.