CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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Demand for across the board pensions

HONG KONG (SE): As the consultation period on retirement protection came to a close, thousands of people, including senior citizens rallied on June 19 in Chater Road, Central, in a public demand for the government to introduce a universal pension scheme without means testing or an asset limit.

Immediately prior to the rally itself, Parish Social Concern Groups and the Hong Kong Christian Council organised a public prayer meeting at which an appeal was made to the government to formulate an across the board retirement policy based on the needs of the people and that protects the dignity of all senior citizens, be they rich or poor.

Reverend Po Kam-cheong, from the Hong Kong Christian Council, said that the city produces tens of billions of surplus dollars every financial year, but still many senior citizens live in poverty, because there is no reasonable universal retirement protection plan.

Reverend Po added that in line with the proposal submitted by the Christian Council, there should not be any asset limit in a universal pension scheme.

He added that it is imperative that the capital involved to run the scheme be earmarked before the city’s ageing population comes to a peak.

He said that proper preparation can be made to finance all necessary supportive services, including medical, nursing and hostel care.

Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, the vicar general of Hong Kong diocese, said at the prayer meeting that it is every one’s responsibility to care for senior citizens.

He added that he hopes that individuals, organisations and the government will join forces in putting together a universal retirement pension scheme.

Speaking at the rally itself, Father Chan said that a universal pension scheme is a must and a healthy society is obliged to afford its senior citizens respect.

He was strong in his words, saying that this principle is being completely ignored by the current administration, as the present discussions on the ageing population only focus on financial problems.

He urged the general public to respect the rights of elderly people by supporting proper retirement protection so that they can have a dignified and complete life.

Led by around 300 wheelchair-bound people in their sunset years, assisted by volunteers, the rally walked from Chater Road in Central to the Chief Executive’s Office in Admiralty, despite the Very Hot Weather Warning that had been issued by the Meteorological Bureau.

Organiser of the rally, the Alliance for a Universal Pension, claimed that around 5,000 people took part.

Christine Fang Meng-sang, the former executive director of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, said she hopes that the authorities will shoulder their political responsibilities and listen to the voice of Churches and civic organisations.

She believes the government should consider the past contribution the city’s senior citizens have made to society and show them care and concern through a basic retirement protection plan, instead of sticking to the old and demeaning formula of poverty alleviation.

Reverend Joseph Chow Yu-hong said he was disappointed that with the present Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, employers can use their contributions to pay long service leave or severance payments.

The deacon said that he supports the Universal Old Age Pension Scholar Proposal, in which half of the Provident Fund contributions from employers and employees is used as one of the sources of capital for a universal old age pension.

He said that if such a system was introduced, the general public would not need to make any extra contribution to raise the capital. 

Other sources of finance can be gained from increasing the profits tax on big enterprises and from direct government injection.

 

A joint statement from the Parish Social Concern Groups, the clergy and several hundreds of people was published on the same day in newspapers, urging the government to set up a universal pension scheme without any asset limit. The public consultation ended on June 21.

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