Old age allowance
Commonly known as "fruit money", the old age allowance is a monthly cash subsidy the Hong Kong government pays to senior citizens aged 65-69 with low incomes, and all elderly citizens aged 70 and over. The Leung Chun-ying administration in 2012 proposed to introduce a new means-tested subsidy called the Old Age Living Allowance, which provides HK$2,200 per month for the needy only.
Government presses for approval of higher old-age allowance
Facing Legco defeat, welfare secretary says 400,000 elderly are pinning hopes on extra cash
The government stepped up pressure on legislators to approve its proposal to raise allowances for the elderly, saying it would be a "huge disappointment" to 400,000 needy elderly if the plan was vetoed.
Pan-democrats want more time to discuss the planned HK$2,200-a-month means-tested benefit for people over 65, with 23 of the camp's 27 legislators signing a letter calling for a postponement until November.
Meanwhile, the pro-establishment Liberal Party plans to vote against the proposal or abstain if the asset limit for the means test is not raised.
People 70 and over are entitled to the current old-age allowance of HK$1,090 a month without a means test; those aged 65 to 69 need to pass a means test. Those who have passed would automatically get the new payment.
Responding to the growing opposition, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said: "If the proposal fails to get through the [Legislative Council's finance committee], and there is a real risk of this, it will be a huge disappointment, a great pity, for the 400,000 elderly applicants."
Speaking on an ATV programme, he added: "Lawmakers who fail to support the proposal will [answer] to the community."
Legco's welfare services panel will hold two special sessions to discuss the proposal before the government seeks funding approval from the finance committee on Friday.
Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said the government was "not respecting Legco".
"The welfare panel has not even met, and [the government is] saying 'Oh, we are putting something to the finance committee on the 26th'," said Lau, deputy chairwoman of the committee. "This is ridiculous. Most people have not had a chance to study it at all - there is no need to rush it through."
Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun told a radio interviewer the proposed HK$186,000 asset cap was too low. "If the limit is raised to HK$300,000 or even HK$500,000, the extra cost would not be too much … to afford," Tien said.
Other legislators have called for the means test, which includes a HK$6,600-a-month income limit, to be scrapped.
The administration now risks defeat. Besides the Liberals, 31 lawmakers in the 70-strong legislature said they either would, or may, vote against the plan.
Even the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the biggest party in the legislature, says it may abstain if the asset cap is not raised.