Hong Kong leader seeking Beijing’s help for ailing economy

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Monday she will fly to Beijing to ask Chinese leaders for help to pull the territory out of its economic slump.

Lam said an annual speech she was due to make this week about government plans will be postponed until she returns from Beijing. She said she would go this month but gave no date.

Lam’s announcement came just two days before her policy address at the start of the local legislative session was scheduled to take place. There are reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping will soon travel to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its status as a special economic zone.

Lam also will travel to Shenzhen for the commemoration activities but she said she has no scheduled meetings with Xi there.

The leader of Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, typically gives a policy address at the start of each legislative year.

Although Lam said that convention was not “cast in stone”, it is the first time that the policy address has been postponed in the city’s history. Last year, Lam gave the policy address online via video-conference after she was heckled by pro-democracy lawmakers while attempting to give her speech in the legislative chamber.

Lam said she is seeking Beijing’s support for several measures she proposed to help boost the economy, which contracted 9% in the second quarter of this year, marking a full year of recession due to last year’s anti-government protests and the pandemic.

Lam said support from Beijing would help her to give a speech later in the year that would boost confidence in the city’s economic future.

“For our economy to revive, we need the support of the mainland. We have to better integrate into the national development plan,” she said.

“It is an indisputable fact that Hong Kong’s economic growth is very related to what we are going to do in our work with the mainland economy,” Lam said.

Lam told reporters she will travel to Beijing in late October to attend meetings with various ministries and commissions and see if the central government will support her proposals. She declined to give details.

“The supporting policies of central authorities would go a long way to boosting the confidence in our economy as well as the revival of economic activity in Hong Kong,” she added.

Confidence in Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status, promised to the city when Beijing took control of the former British colony in 1997, has been shaken as mainland authorities moved to impose a national security law over the territory this summer.

Lam’s decision to delay her speech was seen by some critics as evidence she is too beholden to Beijing.

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