Chaos as Hong Kong lawmakers thwart leader's annual address

Pro-democracy lawmakers twice forced Hong Kong's leader to stop delivering a speech laying out her policy objectives and ultimately led her to deliver the address via television.

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Carrie Lam's inability to deliver her policy address inside the Legislative Council marked a slap in the face for the embattled chief executive grappling with anti-government protests now in their fifth month.

When Lam started delivering the speech, she was shouted down by chanting pro-democracy lawmakers who held aloft placards showing her waving with hands colored blood-red.

She left the chamber and then came back a few minutes later to try again, only to be interrupted one more time. Again, she left. One lawmaker wearing a paper mask showing the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping tossed a placard as Lam was leaving.

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Finally, 75 minutes after the previously scheduled start of the lengthy address, Lam delivered it via video link, with China's yellow-starred red flag to her right and Hong Kong's flag on her left.

Describing the semi-autonomous Chinese territory as going through "major crisis," Lam said: "People are asking: Will Hong Kong return to normal?"

She appealed for its 7.5 million citizens to "cherish the city," warning that "continued violence and spread of hatred will erode the core values of Hong Kong."

She launched into a dry and detailed explanation of plans to tackle Hong Kong's shortage of affordable housing, a long-standing source of discontent, and other welfare issues. With its focus on such minutiae as building new tunnels and freeing up land for development, the 50-minute speech seemed likely to fuel protesters' criticism that Lam is deaf to their concerns about the future of the territory's freedoms, unique in China.

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Lam had been bracing for trouble in the chamber as her government battles the protests that started in June over a contested extradition bill and have snowballed into a sustained anti-government, anti-police and anti-China movement.

The Associated Press contribute to this article.