• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 9:48pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 5:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 5:39am

Court ruling on welfare should stand

If you really need welfare support but can't get it as a new migrant because of the seven-year residency rule, you may end up living on the streets. That was the fate that befell Kong Yunming, who arrived in Hong Kong on December 21, 2005, to live with her 76-year-old husband. Unfortunately, he died the next day after a prolonged illness and she was kicked out of his flat on a public housing estate.

There was something fundamentally inhumane about denying Kong, now 64, any benefits from Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. The Court of Final Appeal yesterday ruled the seven-year qualification for welfare unconstitutional. That is a wise and humane judgment. The court does not specify how many years, if any, a residency rule should be. Most likely, officials will go back to the one-year residency rule in place before 2004, which seems reasonable. Some groups, like the Liberal Party, have warned against opening the floodgates to new- migrant applicants for CSSA. Such fears were what prompted the seven-year requirement, which was imposed in 2004 in a moment of panic following an erroneous projection that 1.67 million mainland migrants would flood into Hong Kong.

Letting people into the city on a one-way permit and then offering no help to those in need is simply self-defeating. It creates desperate people on the fringes of society. In any case, it's not the highest court that has created the problem. According to the department's own numbers, it granted 14,000 exemptions out of 36,000 cases since 2004 to allow applicants with less than seven years of residency to go on CSSA.

The Social Welfare Department should have shown more compassion and common sense in Kong's case; the Housing Authority granted her a public rental flat on a discretionary basis three years ago. She would not then have had to fight the department in court, with the help of Society for Community Organisation. And the government's cherished seven-year rule would have continued unchallenged.

It would be politically unacceptable now to seek an interpretation from the standing committee of the National People's Congress to overturn the judgment. The government should admit defeat and accept it.


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This article is now closed to comments

‘Letting people into the city on a one-way permit and then offering no help to those in need is simply self-defeating. It creates desperate people on the fringes of society.’
Whoever made that rule is either a featherhead or with insidious intention in mind – exploitation of the mainlanders who cross the border. Well, judging from what the Liberal Party and those organized chambers in the commerce, I believe bad intention is not a coincidence. The property developers in the city may be the first supporters in bringing in the mainlanders in large numbers.
Both CY Leung and the central government must review this 150 one way mainlanders the right to settle daily in Hong Kong. Why continue such policy when family can be reunited so easily in mainland? And why continue such policy when critical resources in Hong Kong are running low and knowing that the speck of Hong Kong can be easily crushed under the overwhelming mass of China when a damaged Hong Kong is of no value to anyone? So what when all mountains are leveled with housing but no means to keep the people busy with things to do?
To psl....
Allow me to respond in defend of my comment who may be the best person to understand it.
Here by your seriatim (I need to look up this word which a simple yet powerful word -- order what it really means.)reply:
1. I have the faintest idea how openness of China fitting into the argument. The fact that Hong Kong people are travelling into mainland for business and marriage, who is more open is really a contrived question in the context of my critique.
2. This is a question that makes environmentalist blush with sham as if Hong Kong always even before 1900 only live a sustainable life.
3. Growth at all cost is a primitive act and nothing to be proud of by calling others otherwise having a defeatist mentality. Non sustainable development truly is a defeatist mentality.
4. I will leave this subjective account to the public.
5. Name the price and most likely you will keep to yourself because it is shameful to show it to others.
I hope you are still young enough to use your intellect to make some good argument not only in keeping yourself amused but to do some good to Hong Kong.
I shall not engage you on your 'comment' which abundantly skewed for your own amusement any further because I found it dishonest and unconstructive.
On "honest comment"
None of the various expositions on "acedemic integrity"
I've read are exactly convincing
including M Sandel who in "justice" refers
to JC's "unto Ceasar"
honesty, ignorance, context, purpose, principle, scruple, proportionality, ...
are all related factors
I agree with the judgement as well, but do note two things:

1. The government has indicated that, indeed, it will now revert back to the 1-year 'ordinary residency' test as one of the criteria in order to qualify for CSSA. This seems reasonable, at least much more so than the now-defeated 'permanent residency' 7-year test. However, this approach would still have excluded the complainant in this case here, Ms Kong, at least for the first year of her unfortunate stay.

2. The government would be wise to use this as an opportunity to bring some consistency (back) to its approach when it comes to defining who qualifies for Hong Kong public services and who doesn't - be that welfare payments, or others. The most pressing issue in that realm remains the cross-border school one. It is still the case that children who hold the permanent right of abode in HK (note: they are not permanent residents, they are not residents at all - they just hold an inalienable right to residency) but are not 'ordinary residents' (since they live in Shenzhen) are granted access to Hong Kong's public education system. This is very odd policy, and possibly unconstitutional as well.

Access to Hong Kong public services like education, welfare, health care and so on should simply be based on ordinary residency (>1 year is a fair line in the sand indeed), and not on citizenship status, holding the permanent right of abode, or other irrelevant measures.
JY (6:02am) has asked a (suitable superlative article) most important question of the year
“Why (should HK) continue (the restrictive policy of accepting daily 150 mainlanders a year)
(1) when family can be reunited so easily in mainland
(2) when critical resources in Hong Kong are running low
(3) and knowing that the speck of Hong Kong can be easily crushed
(4) under the overwhelming mass of China
(5) when a damaged Hong Kong is of no value to anyone?”
To address seriatim issues inherent in the question:
(1) China is recognized and promoted as more open than HK
(2) Are HK’s “critical” resources lower now
than all those years, say 1900 till before the reunion?
when the landed policy applied for all mainlanders?
(3) HK hasn’t come this far because of this kind of defeatist mentality
(4) Misapplied proportionality accounts for paranoia
(5) For good value one must pay the price
Insular HK is most susceptible to damage by parochialism
those who can’t tell value from price


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