Tang backs pensions for all - in principle
Despite not having formally announced that he will run for the post of chief executive, Henry Tang Ying-yen yesterday ended a week filled with very public meet-and-greet sessions by saying he backed the introduction of a universal pension scheme. Retirement should be a time of dignity, he said.
Speaking at a forum involving an array of groups pushing for social justice, Tang said: 'I think a universal pension scheme is necessary. After a person retires, their life should be dignified ... But, today, many elderly people are not living such a life.'
However, the former chief secretary stopped short of giving further details to the 200-strong audience at the event, organised by the Council of Social Service.
'A universal pension, by itself, is a simple term, but everyone's interpretation varies,' Tang said, and more discussion was needed.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said in his policy address 10 days ago that such retirement protection was impractical given middle-class reluctance to finance it.
Tang said he had finished writing a population policy report in his last days as chief secretary, before he quit last month, but the government had yet to publish it.
'As our divide from the Pearl River Delta diminishes, there'll be more measures that can benefit Hongkongers across the border,' he said.
Tang also said he supported setting a standard waiting time for public housing applicants; further strengthening 'social enterprises'; providing incentives to enterprises that hire the physically disabled; and setting up a government organ similar to the Commission on Poverty which he chaired from 2005 to 2007.
'All classes in society should feel the warmth of economic development,' Tang said. 'It shouldn't benefit only business and property developers.'
Some people were not convinced by his words.
'The price even for [language] diploma courses is too high for us,' said a Nepali attempting to learn Chinese. 'It seems that you do not understand our problems, Mr Tang,'
A representative from the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Alliance said: 'You say you understand the grass roots, but I really doubt it. If you tried living off HK$2,000 for a month and survived I'd trust you.'
A South China Morning Post survey last week found the popularity of Tang - who has been dogged by accusations about his private life after admitting this month that he had strayed in his love life - lagged far behind that of rival contender for chief executive Leung Chun-ying, the former Executive Council convenor.