Protest chants in Hong Kong's legislature as Carrie Lam is heckled during policy address

Pro-democracy legislators project the words “five demands, not one less” on Carrie Lam before she was able to address the Legislative Council on Oct 16, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam arrives to deliver her annual policy address, as lawmakers hold signs and shout protests, at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Oct 16, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

HONG KONG - Heckling lawmakers prevented beleagured Chief Executive Carrie Lam from delivering her policy address in the legislative chamber on Wednesday (Oct 16). But outside, often the scene of angry clashes between protesters and police in recent months, a relative calm ensued.

The mayhem within the chamber also laid bare the current polarisation of Hong Kong society - mass protests against an extradition Bill escalated in June and have since morphed into calls for greater democracy. The Bill would have allowed for fugitives to be handed over to several jurisdictions including mainland China.

But in Hong Kong's equivalent of a Parliament on Wednesday, pro-democracy lawmakers had prepared posters, portable speakers and even projectors which they deployed to full effect during Mrs Lam's speech.

Drowning out Mrs Lam, the group also played clips of people screaming, which they said were recorded during incidents of police brutality against protesters.

For the first time in months, protest chants were heard in the Legislative Council (Legco) rather than outside, as legislators shouted "five demands, not one less" and "Carrie Lam, step down, investigate police brutality".

"Five demands, not one less" was also projected on her during the brief few minutes she tried to speak.

Amid the ruckus, as LegCo president Andrew Leung repeatedly tried to urge calm, pro-Beijing lawmakers sat around, with divisive figure Junius Ho even pulling out his phone for pictures.

When it appeared impossible for the city's leader to continue, placards were flung at her as she attempted to leave, surrounded by about half a dozen protection officers.

Her address was later broadcast live from her official residence.

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"She is so terrified that she has to hide behind the camera," said pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo.

But outside, under a brilliant blue sky the colour of Mrs Lam's policy address booklet - she said the colour was to signify the end of a "storm" - a handful of anti-Beijing protests stood around feebly at the LegCo's public entrance as one man blasted pre-recorded protest slogans from a speaker.

Earlier plans by protesters to surround the building to prevent Mrs Lam from delivering her address had been scrapped.

Dozens of police officers in riot gear kept close watch over empty streets, and blue and white water-filled barriers provided an additional layer of security.

"The lawmakers need to sort themselves out before they can try to sort out the country," said Mr Tommy Cheung, a retiree who had been listening to a radio broadcast of proceedings at the adjacent Tamar Park.

"But at least they've sent their message loud and clear." the 76-year-old added.

As for the contentious Bill that sparked off the series of protests, it was meant to have been formally withdrawn during Wednesday's legislative session.

But the turn of events meant the sitting was suspended and Hong Kongers would have to wait another week for the top item on their list of demands.

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