HONG KONG - At the end of a policy address that touched on governance and livelihood issues, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday (Oct 11) threw in the quote "the best of Hong Kong is yet to come".
The phrase has been associated with political activists demanding less interference from the Beijing central government.
Mrs Lam, in her 40-minute speech that is delivered in the local dialect Cantonese, sought to mend widening divisions in the society as she called on Hong Kongers to keep their spirits up.
Mrs Lam said Hong Kong is "not far off" from her vision of the city as a place of "hope and happiness".
She said she sees a "vibrant international metropolis that is just, civilised, safe, affluent, enjoys the rule of law, compassionate and well-governed."
But Lam said the community needs to be "united, harmonious and caring" for this vision to be achieved, reported broadcaster rthk.
That said, she stressed that Hong Kong has not "lost our intrinsic advantages".
Hong Kong people are still brilliant and the Hong Kong spirit has not been eroded."
In a break with tradition, Mrs Lam on Wednesday ditched word-for-word delivery of her 49,000-word maiden policy address and highlighted only the major initiatives and its philosophy.
If she were to read the address word for word, it would take up to four hours, according to local reports.
No matter how long the address is, it cannot cover and address all issues, she said on Wednesday.
"My team and I will continue to listen to views," said the city's first female leader, who took office on July 1, the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty.
She had run her election campaign under the "We Connect" slogan, pledging to mend rifts in society.
At the start of her speech on Wednesday, she pledged to to listen to lawmakers and the public with "humility", saying the speech will be a new "starting point" for the city.
She also repeated comments made by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his July visit to Hong Kong for the handover celebrations that the "one country, two systems" policy is the best path for the city.
"We have the responsibility to say no to any act or behaviour that could harm national security," said Mrs Lam, while presenting the policy address at the Legislative Council.
In the run-up to Wednesday's closely-watched policy address, she had already dropped clues of its contents.
For many Hong Kongers, the highlight in her policy address is a new scheme to help the middle class buy a home in a city that has one of the world's most expensive property markets.
The so- called "Starter Homes" scheme, which Mrs Lam first proposed during her campaign for the Chief Executive race, is targeted at the "sandwiched" families: Those which earn too much to qualify for Home Ownership Scheme, but priced out of the private market. Income limits will be set at HK$34,000 (S$5,910) for singles and HK$68,000 for households for eligible buyers, according to South China Morning Post.
The government will give up a previous plan, proposed by Mrs Lam's predecessor Leung Chun Ying, to turn Wan Chai Sports Ground into a new convention centre, opting instead to redevelop government buildings in the area into a new wing.
She said statutory paternity leave will increase from three to five days, and a study will be launched on whether the current 10-weeks of maternity leave should be extended.
Mrs Lam also said on Wednesday the government will set up a training college for its 170,000 civil servants, an idea she first announced during her visit to Singapore in August.
She had visited Singapore's Civil Service College and several government agencies during her two-day visit to the city-state in August.