Jia Qinglin

Motion sails through Legco's break for Jia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2006, 12:00am

CPPCC chairman Jia Qinglin unwittingly handed pro-democracy and unionist legislators a gift yesterday.

So many pro-government and pro-business legislators attended a dinner in his honour that a motion demanding the introduction of a universal retirement scheme sailed through the Legislative Council.

'Thanks to Jia Qinglin, now the legislature speaks with one voice, and passed the motion,' said Lee Cheuk-yan. 'We should have added other demands, such as calling on the government to let old people see the introduction of universal suffrage in their lifetimes.'

The motion, moved by health services sector legislator Joseph Lee Kok-long and amended by Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, of the Civic Party, called for improvement of welfare for the elderly, by introducing a retirement scheme.

A similar motion was voted down in April, because lawmakers of the Liberal Party and The Alliance said it would add to the burden on government finances.

Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok said the government was aware of the city's ageing population, and that it had been working on policies to ensure their well-being.

With most of the government-friendly legislators, and some democrats, attending the dinner party in the neighbouring Island Shangri-La hotel, the 12 legislators remaining in the 60-seat chamber voted for the non-binding motion.

The chamber had steadily emptied as groups of legislators left for the dinner as much as an hour before it was due to begin.

Government-friendly politicians had feared that the Democratic Party, the Civic Party and their allies would try to call for a quorum and embarrass them.

At one point, only eight lawmakers remained - even Legco President Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai left for a photo opportunity with Mr Jia.

The fleets of limousines lawmakers reserved for shuttling them back to Legco should a quorum - a third of the total - be called were left unused.

'The traffic jam was so bad outside anyway,' DAB's Wong Yung-kan said.