Watchdog to probe amputee cash snub
Dennis Chong and Thomas Chan
The equal opportunities watchdog will look at the long-running case of a man denied a disability allowance despite losing a leg in an industrial accident, officials said after a meeting yesterday.
It is the second small victory in as many months for amputee Lee Shing-leung, 61, who last month had a welfare payment increased after four years of fruitless efforts to secure disability allowance.
With support from legislator Wong Kwok-hing, Lee yesterday met Josiah Chok Kin-ming, a senior officer with the Equal Opportunities Commission. After the meeting, Wong said: 'The EOC accepted Lee's complaint and promised to take up his case because they, too, thought that the government's decision was unfair to him.'
The 'unfairness' is the definition used by the government to assess claims for disability allowances, requiring the loss of both legs, not just one.
The Social Welfare Department increased payments to Lee last month under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance programme after a new medical assessment found he merited a higher allowance.
Wong, who has long criticised the government's decades-old definition of a disability, said: 'Lee was diagnosed with mental illness after meeting a psychiatric doctor. Based on the doctor's report, he was granted the allowance.
'Clearly, the government just wants him to stop complaining.'
Lee lost his right leg in an industrial accident in 2007.
He took the government to court after the Social Welfare Department rejected his application for disability allowance. He lost the court case despite winning sympathy from judges over the 'deficient and unsatisfactory' welfare system.
He then lost an attempt to get a judicial review.
A Social Welfare Department official, who is familiar with the case but refused to be named, said the decision came after a change was noticed in Lee's condition, which merited a rise in his welfare payments.
Other people who have lost a leg should not rush to apply for higher dole payments, the official said, since Lee's was an individual case based on proper assessments of his condition.
Wong said it was unjustified for the government to treat a physically disabled person as if they were mentally ill in order to get around an outdated law on disability. He said he plans to mobilise more people who are in Lee's situation to pressure the government to change the law.
'So far, I have received complaints from about 10 victims,' Wong said yesterday. 'I will encourage them to forward their cases to the EOC.'
Lee said: 'I don't know how such [laws] can still exist in Hong Kong, since it is such a developed city.'
Many people registered as physically disabled in Hong Kong cannot get a disability allowance because of an outdated law that grants funds only to the most severely disabled.
The number of physically disabled people registered in Hong Kong. Many can't get a disability allowance because of an outdated law