HK leader postpones annual policy address until after Beijing talks

Lam speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong on Oct 6. (AP pic)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has postponed her annual policy address scheduled for Wednesday to go to Beijing for talks on how the central government can help with the financial hub’s economic recovery.

Lam said she would go to Beijing this month and aimed to hold her policy address by the end of November.

She said she would discuss wide-ranging measures with the central government, including some related to the Greater Bay area – a region that includes Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in China’s Guangdong province – the finance sector and tech innovation, without giving details.

“It is not a matter of waiting for directions,” Lam told a news conference on Monday when asked about the postponement of her address.

“It is a matter of responding to a positive indication from the central government that they want to take into account the chief executive’s recommendations, that they want to facilitate those policy measures so that Hong Kong people have more confidence that the economy will bounce back.”

The central government’s role in the semi-autonomous former British colony has been in the spotlight, in particular with the imposition in June of a security law after months of pro-democracy protests – the most intense in decades – last year.

The protests were triggered in part by fears in Hong Kong that the central government was whittling away the freedoms granted when the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula.

The protests and later the novel coronavirus have battered the city’s economy with full-year gross domestic product (GDP) forecast to contract 6% to 8%.

Lam said the central government had asked her to make the trip to Beijing.

Last year, Lam delivered her policy speech on video after being heckled by pro-democracy lawmakers.

Lam also said she will visit the neighbouring city of Shenzhen for this week’s anniversary of the establishment of China’s first special economic zone there 40 years ago.

President Xi Jinping is due to deliver a speech in Shenzhen on Wednesday but Lam said she had not scheduled a meeting with him there.