HONG KONG - Pro-democracy lawmakers were dragged out of Hong Kong’s legislature by security guards Thursday after they heckled the city’s pro-Beijing leader for a second day running, the latest outburst of political rancor in the strife-torn city.
Chief executive Carrie Lam has faced an outpouring of anger from her opponents since the legislature opened its doors for a new session Wednesday, three months after the building was trashed by masked protesters.
Lam was unable to give a State of the Union-style policy speech Wednesday after pro-democracy lawmakers, who form a minority on the pro-Beijing-stacked legislature, repeatedly interrupted her.
Instead, she was forced to deliver the address in a pre-recorded video.
Second day of chaos
She returned to the Legislative Council Thursday for a session in which she was to answer questions from lawmakers about the content of that policy speech.
But chaos erupted once more as her political opponents chanted slogans and were dragged one by one from the chamber.
Hong Kong has been rocked by the worst political unrest in decades.
Millions have taken to the streets, initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the authoritarian Chinese mainland.
But after Beijing and Lam took a hard line, the movement snowballed into a broader push for democracy and police accountability.
Activists have for years accused Beijing of eroding the city’s unique freedoms, contrary to a deal that outlined Hong Kong’s 1997 return to China from British colonial rule.
Lam, who was appointed by a pro-Beijing-stacked committee, currently boasts historically low approval ratings and has struggled to end the political crisis.
Wednesday’s policy speech was billed as an attempt to win hearts and minds after four months of seething pro-democracy protests.
Focus on economy, not politics
But it was heavily criticized both by opponents and even her allies for offering little in the way of a substantive political solution.
Instead, Lam focused on economic gripes, vowing to increase housing and land supply in a city that has one of the least affordable property markets in the world, and announcing a handful of subsidies.
But she gave no political concessions to the democracy movement and said progress could only be made once violence from protesters ends.
Activists have said they will only end their huge rallies if core demands are met, including an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for the more than 2,500 people arrested and fully free elections.
Both Lam and Beijing have repeatedly dismissed those demands and say Hong Kong’s freedoms are being protected.