Protests as HK leader slams independence movement

Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Leung Chun-ying faced protests Wednesday as he spoke out against the city’s independence movement in his final policy address.
Leung will step down in July after a four-year term marked by anti-Beijing rallies. Frustration at lack of political reform has sparked movements seeking self-determination or even independence for the semi-autonomous city, angering Chinese authorities.
“As we benefit from the opportunities brought by the development of our country and the national policies in our favour, we must clearly recognise that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of our country,” Leung said in the annual address.
“This is both a legal fact and an internationally recognised political reality, leaving no room whatsoever for Hong Kong to become independent or separate from the motherland in any manner,” he added.
Residents must “safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity”, said Leung, who did not mention any plans for kickstarting democratic reform in his speech, after a controversial Beijing-backed package was shelved following massive protests in 2014.
Answering reporters’ questions, Leung said his government had worked hard to push political reform and that a minority had resisted.
He said people must accept Beijing’s roadmap, which declared the public could vote for its leader, but only after nominees were vetted by an election committee.
Currently that committee — which is largely made up of special interest groups skewed towards Beijing — selects the leader with no public vote.
The Beijing-backed reform plan was dismissed as “fake democracy” by opponents and voted down in the legislature by pro-democracy lawmakers.
Leung framed the city’s economic strategy within Beijing’s latest five-year plan and its One Belt, One Road initiative, which calls for constructing vast rail and infrastructure links connecting Chinese exporters to markets across Eurasia.
Around 100 protesters gathered outside the legislature, protesting over pension funds and workers’ rights.