* Leung ties success to China's 'One Belt, One Road' drive
* Address does not unveil major new initiatives
* Property costs must be tackled 'head-on' - Leung
(Adds reaction, detail)
By Clare Baldwin and Donny Kwok
HONG KONG, Jan 13 Hong Kong's leader announced
steps on Wednesday to boost integration with China, pinning the
city's future on the success of Beijing's international "One
Belt, One Road" concept.
Leung Chun-ying, who started a five-year term as chief
executive in 2012, said during his annual policy address that
Hong Kong would play a significant role in promoting the new
"silk road" spreading from Western China to Central Asia and
"Hong Kong is well-positioned to capture the wealth of the
Belt and Road," Leung said. He pledged HK$1.2 billion ($154.65
million) for the concept, mostly for scholarships for students
from countries targeted by the programme.
He mentioned "One Belt, One Road" 40 times in his speech,
which also boosted existing plans in other areas but lacked
sweeping new initiatives.
Four lawmakers were removed for heckling Leung during his
speech over a lack of substance and his failure to mention
concerns over the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers.
The five, linked to the production and sale of works critical of
Beijing's leaders, are widely feared to have been illegally
abducted by mainland agents.
Leung said that any such action would be in contravention of
Hong Kong's Basic Law, or mini-constitution, and that he had
raised the issue with mainland authorities.
The policy address has traditionally been a platform for
leaders in the Chinese-controlled city to hand out billions to
the less-advantaged or to signal shifts in economic and other
With many Hong Kong residents increasingly dissatisfied with
Leung's administration, experts expressed surprise at the
dominance of 'One Belt, One Road' over other issues.
Pro-Beijing politician Regina Ip said Leung had "overdone
it" while skirting key governance and political issues,
particularly Beijing's ties with Hong Kong, a former British
colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of
"I think (Leung) ought to offer stronger reassurances to
Hong Kong people and address the confidence issues," she said.
James Sung, a political analyst at City University, said
Leung seemed determined to show loyalty to Chinese President Xi
Jinping and he doubted smaller businesses would prosper from
Leung later acknowledged that some residents neither
understood nor were interested in "One Belt, One Road".
One regular Hong Kong University poll ahead of the speech
showed his popularity had reached an all-time low of 37.5 per
Leung, who pledged in 2012 to make housing more affordable,
said Hong Kong's lack of affordable property remained a serious
Prices and rents "are still beyond what people can afford,
and have distorted the values of the younger generation," he
said. "We should continue to tackle the housing problem head-on
and must not concede."
He said about 97,100 public housing units will be built over
the next five years. He also boosted spending on public
hospitals and launched a HK$2 billion matching fund to promote
innovative business start-ups.
In tiny Hong Kong, 7.2 million people are packed into just
30 percent of the territory.
Leung has presided over some turbulent history as Hong
Kong's relationship to Beijing is being contested. Pro-democracy
protesters shut down major roads for 79 days in late 2014 and
Leung's administration was accused of meddling in academic
appointments at the top university.
Now the city's economy - whose growth is closely tied to
mainland China's - is slowing.
The Hong Kong dollar's peg to the U.S. dollar has made it an
increasingly expensive destination for mainland Chinese who come
to shop and buy property.
($1 = HK$7.7593)
(Additional reporting by Greg Torode, Twinnie Siu and Farah
Master; Editing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Richard Borsuk and