Hong Kong Exec Carrie Lam Defends Policies on Facebook (Which Is Banned in China)

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a press conference in Hong Kong on October 16, 2019, after she tried twice to begin her annual policy address inside the city's legislature. - Hong Kong's embattled leader abandoned a State of the Union-style speech on October 16 after she was heckled …
ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam explained her policy agenda and defended the Hong Kong police force via Facebook on Thursday night, an ironic choice of venue given that Facebook is banned in China.

The Hong Kong Free Press noted Lam’s previous policy addresses have been given by radio or television, but this year she decided an online platform was better due to “safety concerns.” Her Facebook town hall did not go terribly well. According to the report:

The live stream drew less than 8,000 viewers at its peak. Around 80 per cent of the 12,000 “reactions” on the Facebook post expressed anger, and many users wrote: “Five demands, not one less.”

Lam said she had already responded to the protesters’ demands, but said she was “perplexed” by calls to disband the police: “Every day there are large and small problems with law and order in Hong Kong… and the police are needed to follow up on those cases.”

“I hope everyone can be objective, and not take a predetermined view. I hope that law enforcement will not have subjective feelings towards protesters, and in the same way, protesters should not believe that the police are acting against them,” she added.

Hong Kong protest leaders counter-programmed with a press conference of their own, where they criticized Lam and her administration for trying to “buy us off with their sops,” a derisive reference to Lam’s package of proposals for housing relief and economic stimulus. They also trashed one of Lam’s key proposals, a plan to essentially create artificial islands with high-rise apartment buildings on them, as absurdly expensive and environmentally unsound. 

Interestingly, Lam admitted during her little-watched Facebook broadcast that she understood the protesters were not all motivated by economic factors like anxiety over Hong Kong’s rough housing market.

China’s state-run Global Times naturally forgot to mention Lam’s address was poorly viewed on a platform Chinese citizens cannot access, or that Lam was jeered out of her own legislature when she tried to deliver her policy address in person. Instead, the Global Times portrayed the Facebook event as a rousing success:

Lam also answered dozens of netizens’ questions ranging from housing, education, welfare, medical service, and the handling of the current unrest that has been battering Hong Kong over the past four months.

Lam again explained to the public her third policy address that covered more than 220 initiatives, with the focus on housing and other livelihood issues.

The policy address highlighted livelihood issues such as housing and land supply, improving people’s livelihood and economic development, and appealing to the community to put aside differences and set sail again.

Last month, Lam and four secretaries of the HKSAR government had candid talks with about 130 representatives of the public at the first community dialogue, a move widely seen as a first step to ease social tension and restore public confidence.

There is little sign of social tension easing or public confidence restored in Hong Kong, where more protest marches are expected this weekend. The past week was seen as relatively calm, but activists said they would proceed with a giant rally on Sunday despite the police ruling it illegal because they said the event might be “hijacked by a group of radical protesters.”

“While we always respect citizens’ rights to assembly and freedom of speech, we are alarmed by this epidemic that radical protesters resort to violence in expressing their opinion,” said a police public relations representative.

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