Article 36 of the Basic Law does not entitle everyone in Hong Kong to social welfare benefits and leaves it to the government to decide how to provide such benefits, a lawyer for the government said yesterday. He was responding to another lawyer who earlier had argued that a seven-year residency requirement to receive the CSSA was unconstitutional because it violated Article 36. Joseph Fok SC, for the director of social welfare, said the article's intention could not have been to provide everyone with CSSA, and reading it to mean that everyone should be entitled to welfare was erroneous. The article, he noted, said nothing about the level of benefits that must be provided. 'That is a matter which is left to the government to decide, and understandably so, given the finite financial resources ... and the competing demands from other public needs.' The article merely required benefits be 'in accordance with the law', which recognised there must be a scheme to decide what benefits the government should provide and under what circumstances, he said. Mr Fok was responding in the Court of First Instance to an application for review of the seven-year rule, which went into effect in 2004. The court heard earlier that the applicant, Kong Yunming, 59, a mainland native who married a Hongkonger, had been left homeless after her husband died and she was ineligible for CSSA, having moved here only in 2005. Hectar Pun Hei, for Ms Kong, argued on Tuesday that, in addition to violating Article 36, the seven-year rule went against Article 25, which guaranteed all residents equality before the law, and 145, which required the government improve its social welfare system. It also breached anti-discimination Article 22 of the Bill of Rights, he charged. Mr Fok argued yesterday that the director could and did waive the requirement for genuinely needy people. From January 2004 to September last year, 28 per cent of applications for a waiver were successful, he said. The seven-year rule has a justified and legitimate aim for the application of limited resources for a sustainable welfare system, he said. Providing CSSA to people who had not lived here for more than seven years would be expensive and require a tax increase. Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung reserved his judgment on the application.