Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was unable to deliver her third policy address after being heckled by the opposition in the Legislative Council on Wednesday. Instead she released a video message to talk about the government’s new direction amid the city’s worst political crisis since the 1997 handover.
The speech promised new measures to ease Hong Kong’s housing shortage and improve the economy, but did not make any concessions to the protesters, including their demands for political reform and an investigation into alleged police abuses.
Lam promised to improve support services for special needs students and to turn a previous one-off payment to secondary, primary and kindergarten students into an annual grant of HK$2,500. The handout is expected to benefit 900,000 students. A total of HK$1 billion was also pledged to support publicly aided schools to do minor building work.
The government will also modify the Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme, under which commuters can get cashback on their Octopus at MTR stations. The payout will be increased from a quarter to a third of expenses over HK$400, with a cap increase from HK$300 to HK$400 a month.
Dr Edmund Cheng Wai, Associate Professor at City University’s department of public policy, pointed out that this year’s policy address did not have a section on politics nor any blueprint for political moves, which could be a reflection of the government’s belief that people’s grievances are linked to livelihood issues.
“There were some bold moves in the area of housing and land use, such as relaxing the borrowing conditions for home purchases. It may help shore up support among a segment of society,” Cheng said.
But there is some doubt about how much the policy address will help connect with young people.
“There is a low possibility of it working. The effects of the earlier community dialogues are still in question,” he said. “With the protests being leaderless, it will be very difficult for a trustworthy figure to become an intermediary.”