Leung Chun-ying delivered his last policy address as Hong Kong's Chief Executive today.
He arrived at the Legislative Council at 11am, but the meeting had to be delayed when lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung "Long Hair" interrupted the meeting with yells of "CY is a liar!"
Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen suspended the meeting to address Long Hair's request to adjourn the meeting. President Leung rules that the policy address is not a “debate” in nature and cannot be adjourned. "Long Hair" leaves the chamber chanting, "Leung Chun-Ying, liar!"
The Chief Executive began his address at 11.10am.
In his introduction, Leung offered a broad overview of what he has done in various policy areas including land supply, environmental protection and welfare. He also spoke against Hong Kong independence.
After describing the city as an important “super-conductor” as China takes a leading role in the global economy, Leung said that “Hong Kong is an inalienable part of our country. There is absolutely no room for independence or any form of separation. Further, under the 'one country, two systems', every one of us has the obligation to fully comply with the Basic Law and safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.”
Here are some keypoints from Leung's policy address:
The Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides submitted its final report and put forward recommendations on preventing student suicides and improving the mental health of students. The government has launched the Student Mental Health Support Scheme on a pilot basis in the current school year to enhance communication and collaboration among healthcare, education and social welfare professionals. Multi-disciplinary professional teams including psychiatrists, educational psychologists, school social workers, psychiatric nurses, clinical psychologists and occupational therapists are assisting schools in supporting students with mental health needs.
The Education Bureau (EDB) recommended that Chinese history education be fine-tuned by balancing the ancient and modern periods, with both political and cultural dimensions incorporated into the curriculum, to give students a comprehensive understanding of Chinese history. To promote Chinese history and traditional Chinese culture, the EDB will strengthen teachers’ professional development and provide a one-off grant of about HK$125 million to support teaching efforts in this respect.
The government will launch a grant to enrich the language environment and refine the English language curriculum and set up a vocational English programme for senior secondary students who are interested in pursuing vocational and professional education and training, or are preparing to work.
To promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, the EDB is prepared to provide each public sector secondary school with an additional one-off subsidy of HK$200,000 to facilitate the implementation of school-based programmes related to STEM education.
The government will allocate additional resources to improve the facilities of 26 “matchbox-style school premises” [cuboid premises built between the mid-1960s and 1980 in public housing estates for use as primary schools] and the EDB will strengthen Basic Law education.
Leung says the government will implement the free quality kindergarten education policy from the 2017/2018 school year. Eligible local non-profit-making kindergartens will be provided with a direct subsidy for quality half-day education services. The government will also provide an additional grant for whole-day and long whole-day kindergartens, which provide services of long hours and on school holidays, and a grant for kindergarten students from families in need to cover their school-related expenses. To help eligible kindergartens implement the new policy, the government will provide them with a one-off grant in the current 2016/17 school year. Leung estimated that the government’s recurrent expenditure on kindergarten education will increase by around HK$2.7 billion, and approximately 70 to 80 per cent of subsidised half-day kindergarten places will be free-of-charge.
A paid non-local study leave scheme on a pilot basis will be available for serving secondary school teachers. The programmes will last for one to three months. The three-year scheme [each of the programmes last for one to three months] is expected to benefit some 150 teachers.
Belt and Road
The Government will continue to fully support the Belt and Road Initiative and will update school curricula to encourage students to take up foreign languages. The initiative will also increase the quota for students' study exchange programme to the mainland along the Silk Road to 5,600 this year. Through the Quality Education Fund, the government will encourage students to experience exchange programmes to the mainland and countries along the Belt and Road.
To foster co-operation and exchanges between Hong Kong and countries along the Belt and Road, the government will consider relaxing visa requirements for nationals of those countries for employment, study and visit. The government has reached a consensus with Belarus on mutual visa exemption and are planning to relax visa requirements for Cambodian nationals.
The government also set up the Hong Kong Scholarship for Belt and Road students from Indonesia this academic year. And in the next academic year, there will be two Belt and Road scholarships, funded by private donations, for students from Malaysia and Thailand to study in Hong Kong.
The Home Affairs Bureau and the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education launched the Funding Scheme for Exchange in Belt and Road Countries on a trial basis last year. The scheme aims to provide support for exchange opportunities within Belt and Road countries for local students.
Innovation and technology
Leung emphasised the importance of innovation and technology for Hong Kong's economic and social development, and reported that IT development has significantly improved over the past year after the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau.
Among the highlights: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology setting up its first overseas innovation node in Hong Kong, and the Alibaba Group launching a HK$1 billion Hong Kong entrepreneurs fund [note: Alibaba Group is the owner of the South China Morning Post]. He says the number of start-ups in Hong Kong grew to nearly 2,000 last year - some 25 per cent up from 2015. To promote re-industrialisation, the government is preparing to build a data technology hub and an advanced manufacturing centre in Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate. They are expected to be completed in three to five years.
Children with Special Needs
The Government will waive the service fees of special child care centres and provide a non-means-tested training subsidy for children on the waiting list of these centres. In the coming school year, the government will continue to develop a support model applicable to senior secondary students with average to high functioning autism.The government will also provide an additional grant for schools for children with severe intellectual disability, schools for children with physical disability, and schools for children with visual impairment-cum-intellectual disability to enhance the care for 24- hour ventilator-dependent students.
Leung estimated that the housing supply target for the next decade is providing 460,000 units, including 200,000 public rental housing (PRH) units and 80,000 subsidised sale flats. But he admitted that supply for public housing is far behind the target and the waiting time for PRH units has considerably increased. The housing problem, he said, will remain a tough task if the government and community won’t speed up the identification of land for housing production.
The government will review the existing land use, and according to estimates, some 25 additional housing sites, capable of producing over 60,000 units [of which over 80 per cent are public housing units] can be made available for housing development, tentatively from 2019-20 to 2023-24, provided that the relevant statutory plans can be amended and the procedures completed in time.
Based on the slogan of “Development for the north, conservation for the south”, Leung said North Lantau will be for economic and housing developments, including the Airport North Commercial District, Tung Chung New Town, and so on. Northeast Lantau will be developed into an area for leisure, entertainment and tourism. Most of the remaining areas in Lantau will be used for conservation, leisure, cultural and eco-tourism purposes.
The government will continue to take stringent enforcement actions against illegal land use, including unauthorised development under the Town Planning Ordinance, and illegal occupation of government land in rural New Territories [including brownfield sites].
The government is striking the right balance between development and conservation, Leung said, and that the government has incorporated suitable enclaves, such as Sai Wan, into country parks. This move has increased the total area of country parks and special areas by 38 hectares.
Sneaky snakes and friendly frogs, photographer Sam Yue brings us the best pics of Hong Kong’s native species
In developing the Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas (NDAs), a Long Valley Nature Park of about 37 hectares will be developed. To conserve more sites with high ecological significance, the government will commence work on designating new 500-hectare country park Robin’s Nest. The government will continue to identify suitable sites for inclusion into country park areas.
Legislations will be enacted to phase out the local trade in ivory, and heavier penalties will be imposed on smuggling and illegal trade of endangered species. The government will step up cooperation with the mainland law enforcement agencies to combat the smuggling of endangered species, including ivory and incense tree.
Cleaner energy pledged
The government will gradually replace coal-fired power plants with “cleaner energy” by 2030. In negotiating the new Scheme of Control Agreements regulatory framework with the city’s two power companies, the authorities will “study how to further promote energy saving and renewable energy (RE) generation”. The plan is to reduce carbon intensity in Hong Kong from the levels in 2005 by 65 to 70 per cent by 2030.
In a surprising twist: HK$20 billion for sport
Leung announced a five-year spending plan to revamp the city’s sports facilities. The government has decided to “significantly increase the provision of sports facilities, and will spend a total of HK$20 billion in the coming five years to launch 26 projects to develop new or improve existing sports and recreation facilities, amounting to a total of 54”.
The projects include two sports grounds, nine football pitches, one sports centre, four swimming pool complexes, two lawn bowling greens, one cycling ground, four tennis courts, 11 outdoor basketball courts and 20 open spaces. The government will conduct a technical feasibility study for another 15 sports and recreation facility projects to prepare for their implementation. Another highlight: a plan to demolish the Wan Chai Sports Ground for “comprehensive” development in 2019. Apart from building convention and exhibition venues, the site will include “trendy and novel recreation and sports facilities”. The government will inject HK$1 billion into the Elite Athletes Development Fund.
In his concluding remarks, Leung stressed again that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. He says this is both a legal fact and an internationally recognised political reality, leaving no room whatsoever for Hong Kong to become independent or separate from the Motherland in any manner. The high degree of autonomy that Hong Kong enjoys shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law. He says every citizen should have the obligation to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.
Leung’s policy address this year is the longest in his five-year tenure. The previous record was last year’s address, which consisted of 13 chapters [or 261 paragraphs]. Today, Leung read more than 272 paragraphs.
The Chief Executive finished his speech to a round of applause from the pro-establishment camp. The camp’s lawmakers stand as he exits the chamber, but the pan-democrats remained seated.