Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam was drowned out by pro-democracy lawmakers and prevented from delivering her annual policy speech on Wednesday, eventually resorting to making the address by video.
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As Lam entered the city's Legislative Council chamber, her voice was overwhelmed as some lawmakers shouting out “Five demands, Not one less." Lam exited the chamber, only to return 20 minutes later to make a second attempt. But the chief executive was again cut off, as lawmakers projected the protesters' demands onto the wall behind her and used portable speakers to blare what appeared to be audio of protesters clashing with police.
Some lawmakers were seen wearing paper masks of Chinese President Xi Jinping, a not-so-subtle nod to the newly enacted ban on wearing face masks.
Lam was escorted out of the chamber, flanked by security, and was heckled as she made her way to the exit. Outside Hong Kong’s government complex, a few dozen protesters were outnumbered by a massive presence of armed riot police.
Ahead of her scheduled address, one of the protesting lawmakers, Claudia Mo, said at an impromptu press conference that Lam had lost all authority and is now "just a puppet on strings, being played by Beijing," the Associated Press reported.
Also on Wednesday, the group Civil Human Rights Front issued a statement saying that Jimmy Sham, a face of the protest movement, had been attacked by a group of four to five people with hammers and was being treated for wounds to his head, hands and feet. There was no immediate comment from the police.
The group has called for an investigation into the incident and said it will participate in a protest this Sunday.
"In such a bloody era painted by horror, we cannot be defeated by political terror," it said in a statement. "We call for more people to come out to stand their ground and show the perpetrators and this regime that we will not stand down."
Lam's speech -- a sort of "state of the union" -- was eventually released to the public as a pre-recorded video. In it, she addressed routine matters, like the government's response to a housing shortage, but also spoke to the unrest that has been rocking Hong Kong since June.
The protest movement has been successful in its original goal of having a controversial extradition bill removed from consideration. But has expanded to call for Lam's ouster, open elections to replace her and an investigation into the police conduct against demonstrators.
“While we respect different opinions and understand people’s enthusiasm in fighting for justice and rights, I believe our society will agree that continued violence and spread of hatred would erode the core values of Hong Kong, disrupt social peace and undermine the excellent system that took years of efforts to build,” Lam said.
She said citizens have the right to protest, but added that “any act that advocates Hong Kong’s independence and threatens the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests will not be tolerated.”
Law and social order must be restored as “early as possible” so that Hong Kong can "emerge from the storm and embrace the rainbow,” Lam said as she ended the address.
In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Lam said she would hold a public forum on Thursday night. During that event, Lam will interact with the public over Facebook.
Her remarks came amid increased tensions between U.S. lawmakers and China, which assumed control of Hong Kong in 1997. On Tuesday, the U.S. House passed three bills in a show of bipartisan support for the anti-government protesters, including one that backed the right to demonstrate in the semi-autonomous city. The bills have not yet been taken up by the Senate.
Patrick Sum contributed to this report