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Hong Kong Legislators Walk Out of Chief Executive Address

Pro-democracy legislators hold up yellow umbrellas and banners stating "I want real universal suffrage" and "Leung Chun-ying Step down" as they walk out of the Legislative Council during Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's annual policy address in

Calling for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, pro-democracy lawmakers raised yellow umbrellas and walked out of the annual policy address of the territory's chief executive Wednesday.

More than 20 legislators walked out before the speech by Leung Chun-ying. Alan Leong of the Civic Party says the chief executive has proven he is unworthy of his position.

“Such an executive chief used 87 tear gas rounds to deal with citizens in peaceful demonstrations seeking real universal suffrage. He is not qualified [to be] our chief executive," said Leong.

The lawmakers are calling for Hong Kong to allow any candidate to run for office in the city's 2017 election, rather than require candidates to be pre-screened by a committee that opponents say is biased toward the Beijing government.

The pre-screening plan has been an object of contention since last year, when it inspired weeks of street protests in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory.

After the walkout, Chief Executive Leung said "the rule of law is the foundation of Hong Kong" and reiterated his support for the pre-screening plan for the city's elections.

“Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China under “One Country, Two Systems”. Hong Kong’s autonomy is a high degree of autonomy not an absolute autonomy. This is a unique and unprecedented system. There is neither overseas precedent nor ‘international standard’ of the kind," he said.

Wednesday's session echoed one last week when lawmakers walked out during a speech by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.

At its peak last year, the so-called Occupy protest movement attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators, presenting an unprecedented challenge to Beijing's rule of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a former British colony, but was returned to China in 1997. As a semiautonomous Chinese territory, its citizens still enjoy many freedoms not allowed on the mainland.

On December 31, Hong Kong police arrested 12 protesters as pro-democracy demonstrators returned to the the Mong Kok neighborhood that hundreds had occupied for more than two months.

Police said they used pepper spray and batons in overnight clashes and arrested demonstrators on charges ranging from assaulting a police officer to failing to produce proof of identity.

It was the first sizeable rally since the last protest camp was cleared out on December 15.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Cantonese service.

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