Democrat disagrees with waiving old-age allowance means test

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 October, 2012, 3:11am

Democratic Party member Law Chi-kwong has criticised his own party and its Legco allies for calling on the government to waive a means test for a new old-age allowance, suggesting that it was a breach of political ethics.

He said he was "fading out" of party affairs "to speak for what is right".

Law's remarks came as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying insisted that there was no room for concession on the proposal. He said lawmakers who opposed the means test would be "subjected to society's judgment".

When Legco reconvenes on Wednesday, one of Leung's first battles is likely to be the debate on raising the allowance for about 400,000 poor elderly people to HK$2,200 a month.

The administration plans to seek funding approval from Legco's finance committee on October 26 and launch the scheme by next year.

But parties from across the political spectrum, including the Democratic Party, Civic Party and the Beijing-loyalist Federation of Trade Unions, say the means test must be waived for those over 70, as it is for the existing HK$1,090-a-month elderly allowance, called "fruit money".

If the government rejects this demand, it is likely that the 33 pan-democratic and FTU lawmakers in the 70-seat legislature will veto the proposal.

In a radio interview yesterday morning Law, a member of a task force setting up the new Commission on Poverty, said he thought it was a matter of ethics. "No one has ever requested that the fruit money should be doubled, but suddenly when the government is tabling a new [old-age allowance] proposal, you are asking that it become [the equivalent of doubling] the fruit money."