Middle-class Hongkongers turned up the heat on Leung Chun-ying yesterday, taking to the airwaves to berate the chief executive for neglecting their needs in his policy address.
The state of the middle class was the main topic raised by callers who questioned Leung on a radio phone-in organised by RTHK, Commercial Radio, Metro Radio and DBC, one day after the policy speech.
A poll by the University of Hong Kong found that Leung's address was less well received than his maiden speech a year ago, despite his multibillion-dollar splurge on welfare.
"My family is living on an income of HK$30,000 per month but I have to pay off my mortgage, take care of two family members, employ a maid and pay taxes … while you have handed out resources to the grass roots. Have you ever helped us?" one caller asked Leung.
Another criticised Leung for focusing on poverty, asking: "Do you think the middle-class can take care of themselves?"
Leung said his government had both the ability and a responsibility to satisfy the basic needs of the poor, and the use of income and assets tests would ensure that resources were directed only to those in need.
He said the government would help the middle-class in a different way: by boosting economic development to improve their quality of life and upward mobility.
In his policy speech, Leung unveiled initiatives that would cost taxpayers more than HK$10 billion per year. The measures include the Low-Income Working Family Allowance, which will cost HK$3 billion per year and benefit 710,000 people in more than 200,000 poor families.
Leung expressed confidence the government could afford the spending increase, amid criticism that he had breached the Basic Law by failing to keep expenditure below revenues.
Callers also raised concern over Leung's plan to subsidise the overseas studies of elite students, with one caller saying the government should use the money to help poor children instead.
The HKU poll, taken immediately after the speech on Wednesday, saw the 1,017 respondents give Leung's policy address an average mark of 54.1 out of 100, 2.3 marks less than last year. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 per cent.