The Government has been accused of avoiding its welfare responsibilities by encouraging elderly people to move to Guangdong. Officials confirmed yesterday that people retiring to the province would not have their medical and housing costs subsidised as they do in Hong Kong. They would be paid the standard monthly welfare payment of $2,200, which comprises the $2,060 standard rate and the annual $1,530 long-term supplement. It is estimated about 7,000 elderly people will join the scheme, which will cost the Government half the amount it spends on elderly people staying in the territory. Director of Social Welfare Andrew Leung Kin-pong said the amount that the elderly received was double the average wage paid in Guangdong. 'It is their choice. They will have to consider if they can maintain their living standards taking into account lifestyle and medical expenditure,' he said. He denied the Government was systematically moving the elderly into China to save money. 'This scheme is to respond to calls that they needed financial assistance when retiring to their hometowns,' he said. People aged over 60 who have been welfare recipients for three years are eligible for the scheme, which takes effect on April 1. The Hong Kong Red Cross has been appointed to handle checks and emergency help for the elderly in case they need to return to the territory. Mr Leung said he would seek more information on medical packages and homes for the elderly during a visit to Guangdong before the end of the month. Social worker Chan Ping-lun of St James' Settlement said it was unfair to compare the standard payment to wages in China. He said many mainland residents were leading a humble lifestyle without basic household items such as a television and fridge, and their medical care was provided for. 'You cannot deprive the elderly of what they already had when they lived in Hong Kong,' he said. Legislator Law Chi-kwong said: 'With merely $2,200 a month, the elderly can only afford to cure a cold in China. 'It would be irresponsible if the Government gives the message to the elderly that everything will be okay.'