Elderly in march for universal pension
Wheelchair-bound protesters call for scrapping of means tests on old age living allowance as stepping stone to retirement scheme for all
An angry crowd of more than 1,000 people, including the elderly and their families, marked Senior Citizens Day yesterday by accusing the government of failing to give a commitment to the long-awaited universal pension scheme.
Their anger did not let up even as top officials reiterated that the Legislative Council should pass the proposed Old Age Living Allowance as soon as possible and that the handout - which as it stands would be subject to means testing - was not a substitute for a future universal pension scheme.
The rally, organised by the Alliance for Universal Pensions, attracted more than 100 elderly protesters, many of them in wheelchairs.
Organisers demanded that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying put the establishment of a universal pension scheme on the agenda of his first policy address in January, and establish a select committee to study the issue.
"I hope a timetable to introduce a universal pension scheme will come forward soon," said Lai Yuen-mei, spokeswoman for the alliance. The Old Age Living Allowance could be an intermediate step towards a universal pension, if it was not means-tested, she added.
"The government should start thinking about how to implement an all-round retirement plan for the whole society while we still have a comparatively young workforce," she said.
The protesters marched from the Southorn Playground in Wan Chai to the central government offices in Tamar, Admiralty.
Amid loud chants to scrap the means test for the Old Age Living Allowance, Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung appealed to lawmakers again to pass the bill in the coming Legco finance committee meeting this coming Friday for the sake of the elderly, but he reiterated there was no room for amendment.
He reassured lawmakers that implementing the allowance won't stop discussion on future retirement plans.
"We will look into two very important issues: social and retirement protection ... Our aim is to ensure better elderly retirement protection in our governance term," Cheung said.
The government plans to ask the Legislative Council Finance Committee to hold additional meetings to discuss the Old Age Living Allowance.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said arrangements for the meeting would be decided by the finance committee but the government would work with Legco to pass the bill as soon as possible.
On Friday, lawmakers filibustered for more than five hours in the Finance Committee to block approval of the living allowance.