Old age allowance

Pan-democrats to filibuster meeting on old-age allowance

Parties who oppose means-testing new living allowance to stall crucial meeting on funding it

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 3:57am

Radical pan-democrats plan to filibuster when lawmakers scrutinise funding for a HK$2,200 old-age living allowance today.

They aim to defer voting by the Legislative Council Finance Committee to demand concessions from the government.

The special meeting will be convened by committee chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who decided to run a four-hour session until 11pm at the government's request, despite opposition from 23 pan-democratic lawmakers.

The meeting was made possible because Cheung exempted the administration from the requirement to give five working days' notice of the re-tabling of the funding request. Pan-democrats forced an adjournment of discussions last Friday. He said if the committee could not meet in time, 400,000 people would not get the allowance this month, since it could not be backdated to October 1 if the funding proposal was not passed this month.

Cheung said 32 lawmakers expressed support for holding the meeting today, while 23 opposed and six did not reply.

League of Social Democrats legislator "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung said: "I might need to filibuster ... Filibustering can bring the public's attention to this issue … The filibuster is in demand for a universal retirement protection scheme or, at least, improvements [to the government's current proposal]."

Under the administration's plan, needy people 65 and over would be eligible for the HK$2,200 monthly allowance subject to a means test. The income and asset caps for a single applicant will be HK$6,660 a month and HK$186,000 respectively. Leung wanted the means test scrapped so more elderly people can benefit.

People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said: "I will keep asking questions. It probably won't be put to a vote as the meeting will last just four hours."

The Labour Party decided not to move an adjournment motion at the meeting as it might not win enough support.

The chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Tam Yiu-chung, said the party would reveal its findings on the issue, and which way its members would vote. Funding has a better chance of Legco approval if the DAB, with 12 votes, supports it.

In July, the government said it would introduce the means-tested Old Age Living Allowance instead of improving the current HK$1,090 Old Age Allowance.