Pro-democracy lawmakers forced the adjournment Wednesday morning of the annual policy address by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam. It was the isolated leader’s first appearance in the newly reopened legislature, refurbished to the tune of $5 million after protesters ransacked it in July.

Legislative Council president Andrew Leung adjourned the meeting barely minutes after it had begun after opposition legislators started chanting slogans, hurling abuse and used a projector to beam slogans onto the chamber wall. Several legislators were ejected from the chamber and cries of “Carrie Lam, step down!” were heard.

Lam’s speech was expected to focus on affordable housing—the lack of which has helped fuel the raging discontent behind five months of anti-government protests. Her failure to give the address marks a sharp deterioration of Hong Kong’s already fractious politics.

Speaking to reporters afterward, democratic lawmaker Tanya Chan said: “I really urge [Lam], if she can’t govern Hong Kong, and has no determination to govern Hong Kong, and no ability or even capability of administrating Hong Kong, to please step down. This is the only way we can have a good future, the only way Hong Kong can go forward. Please, please Carrie Lam, please don’t let us suffer anymore. Please go.”

Legislator Claudia Mo, said, “One, she [Lam] has no more right, no more authority, to govern Hong Kong, and the second thing is that she doesn’t understand Hong Kong. She is just a puppet on strings, being played by Beijing.”

Added lawmaker Eddie Chu: “Hong Kong people can no longer tolerate such a legislature, such a chef executive. I am very happy that, together with the democrats, we were able to chase Carrie Lam out the chamber today.”

Fearing disruptions, the Legislative Council had issued an amber alert prior to the the meeting, effectively barring the public from observing the proceedings and placing restrictions on the movements of lawmakers’ staff within the building.

A small group of protesters from the radical League of Social Democrats gathered outside the legislature beforehand. “The deep-rooted problem is that power lies in the hands of a small group of people, and that power is abused,” said party figurehead and former legislator Leung Kwok-hung to assembled reporters. He repeated a demand for Lam to hold an independent probe into alleged police brutality, calling it “the most important thing at this moment.”

The fiasco at the legislature comes at a time of sky-high political tensions in Hong Kong. More than 2,500 people have been arrested, and hundreds injured, since protests erupted over a controversial, but now withdrawn, extradition bill in June. Early demonstrations against the bill quickly escalated into a general rebellion against Lam’s Beijing-backed administration. Many protesters are demanding full democracy and self-determination or even independence for the former British possession, which was retroceded to China in 1997 after 156 years of colonial rule.

In recent weeks, protesters have become increasingly violent, smashing government offices and mainland-Chinese owned businesses, paralyzing the city with sustained attacks on the subway system, and detonating, police say, an improvised explosive device. Police arrested two men Wednesday at an apartment where explosives were found.

A high school student has also been arrested for slashing a policeman on the neck with a box cutter during a protest, and police have wounded two young protesters in separate shootings.

In an attempt to quell the protests, the government two weeks ago invoked emergency powers to ban the wearing of masks at public gatherings, but the measure has sparked even greater fury.

Meanwhile, Beijing says it will respond forcefully if the U.S. Congress passes the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The measure allows for sanctions on Hong Kong officials who are held to be working against the enclave’s “fundamental freedoms and autonomy.”

“This kind of behavior has grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs and is openly adding support to the opposition forces and radical forces in Hong Kong,” an official at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office reportedly stated.

Lam’s administration voiced its “regret” at the passage of the act through the House of Representatives.

China’s President Xi Jinping has also bluntly threatened Hong Kong’s separatist movement, saying, “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. And any external forces backing such attempts at dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming.”

Lam is scheduled to make her policy address later on Wednesday via video—an unprecedented step for a Hong Kong leader.

“What leader, in reading out a policy report, can only do it on TV? it is those who have failed, those who cannot face the public,” pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung said to reporters.

With reporting by Hillary Leung / Hong Kong



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