HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong's legislature was interrupted for the second straight day as pro-democracy lawmakers shouted down Chief Executive Carrie Lam, a day after their protests forced her to deliver her annual policy address by video.
About a dozen opposition lawmakers were dragged from the city's Legislative Council by security staff for raising noisy objections on Thursday (Oct 17). The ejected legislators shouted at Mrs Lam and waved placards that showed the Chief Executive with blood on her hands from recent violent protests in the financial hub.
The body's president suspended the session, but opposition lawmakers continued their disruptions - before more of the 24 elected pro-democracy lawmakers were pulled out and the meeting was suspended a second time.
"This is expected," pro-establishment lawmaker Felix Chung told Bloomberg TV as the chaos unfolded.
The pro-democracy bloc comprises only about a third of lawmakers, but the displays this week showed they have the ability to delay or even shut down debate on major economic initiatives, even if they don't have the votes. That spells even more trouble ahead for an economy sliding into recession as protests against Beijing's grip over the city grow increasingly violent.
A day earlier, agitating lawmakers used a projector to shine the protest slogan "Five Demands, Not One Less" onto Mrs Lam face, with the leader repeatedly pausing as she tried to deliver her policy address in the Legislative Council, known as LegCo. Finally she gave up, and delivered her address, which normally details economic priorities, via video instead.
"If she fails to respond to the five demands, it would be a fantasy to expect normal business to resume in the Legislative Council," said Mr Alvin Yeung, a pro-democracy lawmaker who participated in the disruption, on Wednesday.
"All of these livelihood issues, she could have introduced them a year ago. She's trying to compete for popularity. She's trying to win over people's hearts. But this is doomed to fail without any legitimacy."
In her address, Mrs Lam pledged to make housing more affordable and promised cash handouts for students, many of whom have been on the front lines of demonstrations that have spurred regular clashes with police over the past four months. They were among some 200 initiatives aimed at easing some of the discontent that has fuelled the protests.
But she'll have a hard time implementing them as well as a US$2.4 billion (S$3.3 billion) stimulus package announced in August without the support of lawmakers.
"Many of these measures cannot be implemented without funding approval from the Legislative Council," Mr James Lau, acting Financial Secretary, said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday, referring to the stimulus.
A backlog of projects worth more than HK$70 billion (S$12.1 billion) and involving about 14,000 jobs is awaiting approval by the Finance Committee, he said.
More than 50 legislative proposals are currently awaiting action, according to an Oct 16 meeting agenda. While some deal with mundane administrative issues - fees on karaoke parlours and bus route schedules - others include deliberations on a face-mask ban implemented under an emergency law and the official withdrawal of the extradition Bill that sparked the protests.
"We've already suffered from delays in many, many discussions," said economist Iris Pang, with ING Bank NV in Hong Kong. "I have no idea when those policies in the policy address can really be discussed or passed in the Legislative Council. This is a big question mark I think every Hong Kong person has in mind now."
Ms Regina Ip, a pro-establishment lawmaker, said that it was still possible to push things through despite the "disgraceful" interruption by opposition lawmakers on Wednesday.
Certain measures announced in the policy address that don't require new funding - including relaxed mortgage rules for first-time home buyers and land requisition for new housing - could be implemented without lawmaker approval, she said.