Hong Kong’s leader extended an olive branch of economic stimulus to the city a day after lawmakers vetoed a Beijing-backed electoral reform package, a move economists warned could undermine business in the Asian financial hub.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he would bring a series of economic initiatives to lawmakers next week, and called for their support.
Democratic lawmakers had been filibustering all budget items during the city’s pro-democracy protests, holding up funding for a variety of slated projects. Leung said that a continuation of such actions would hurt the community.
“It’s time for all of us to move on,” Leung told reporters. “We should try to forge consensus on various economic and livelihood issues.”
Lawmakers on Thursday ended a long-running debate on political reform in the city with a veto, a rare instance of the former British colony voting against a proposal endorsed by China’s central legislature.
Economists at ANZ had warned that such a move could cause political instability and hurt business as foreign investors might put their China headquarters in Shanghai or Shenzhen instead of Hong Kong.
Fitch Ratings said that Hong Kong’s economic concerns were significant from a sovereign credit perspective. It also needed to pay attention to its growing exposure to mainland China’s financial system and to US monetary tightening, as well as an ageing population, housing and infrastructure and social inequality.
Leung said his economic proposals would include better pay for civil servants, more homes for the elderly and additional funding for recycling and small and medium businesses.
HONG KONG OPPOSITION ARE ‘DESTROYERS’
Even as Leung began shifting the debate to economics, China’s Foreign Ministry and Chinese state media lashed out at Hong Kong’s opposition pro-democracy lawmakers.
“Certain people, whose aim was to hobble the development of democracy in Hong Kong, voted against the bill in the legislature,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters. “They will bear the responsibility of history for this.”
The official People’s Daily was even more direct.
“The conduct and deeds of the opposition faction show that they are disturbers and destroyers in the process of the democratization of Hong Kong,” it wrote in a commentary in its overseas edition.
“The goal of their veto of the universal suffrage bill is to contest the governance of Hong Kong by the central government, conspiring to turn Hong Kong into an independent political entity,” it wrote, referring to the 28 lawmakers who voted against the proposal.