Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam lays out policy plans

In her debut speech after 100 days in office, Hong Kong’s new chief executive called for improvements to housing policy and social issues. She also emphasized Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China.

Hong Kong’s new chief executive on Wednesday outlined her policy priorities for the next five years in a major speech to the city’s Legislative Council.

Carrie Lam spoke of the city’s close relationship with the Chinese “motherland” and the importance of the “one country, two systems” provision that gives the city considerable autonomy from Beijing.

“Everybody with a passion for Hong Kong has the responsibility to ensure … the obligation to say ‘no’ to any attempt to threaten our country’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” she said.

Lam has sought to reduce social tensions in Hong Kong since coming to office 100 days ago as some worry over mainland China’s interference in the city’s affairs, which has prompted pro-democracy protests since 2014.

Controversially, Hong Kong sentenced three student leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests to prison in August, triggering protests. 

While some pro-democracy protest leaders demand independence, Lam has said it violates the region’s Basic Law. 

Skyrocketing housing prices

But most of Lam’s speech was devoted to solving bread and butter issues in Hong Kong, where inequality is high and families struggle with some of the most expensive property prices in the world.

She laid out a plan to expand public housing and promote home ownership in the city of more than 7 million people, where rents reached an all time high last year.

In a poll released Tuesday, 94 percent of Hong Kong residents identified housing as the number one issue for Lam to address. 

“Meeting public housing needs is our top priority,” she said. “The current-term government will think out of the box to facilitate the implementation of various short-term community initiatives to increase the supply of transitional housing, with a view to alleviating the hardship faced by families.”

The chief executive said high housing prices would be addressed by increasing land supply and a new subsidy scheme to help families who do not benefit from cheap public housing.

Lam also addressed policies to provide social services to children, families and the elderly.

cw/kms (dpa, Reuters)

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