One hundred and eighty scholars from various universities have said that they will boycott public consultations on the government’s long-awaited universal pension scheme, which they say is “fake” and misleading.

In the government’s consultation paper on the scheme, released on Tuesday, two possibilities are put forward: under the “regardless of rich or poor” approach, every elderly person over 65 would receive HK$3,230 per month; under the “those with financial needs” approach, pensions would only be paid to those with assets of HK$80,000 or less.

Scholars had earlier submitted a universal pension plan proposal to the Commission on Poverty; however, it was only briefly referred to in the remarks section of the consultation document.

Scholars boycott the government consultation.

The scholars’ proposal suggests an injection of HK$100 billion in public funds, plus a 2.5 percent MPF contribution paid in by employers and employees. It also suggests raising the profits tax by 1.9 percent. Those aged 65 or above would then be entitled to HK$3,500 a month, with a balance of around HK$160 billion being reached by 2064.

University of Hong Kong professor and former Hong Kong Council of Social Service CEO Fang Meng Seng said that the scholars’ universal pension proposal was financially sustainable, but the government refused to put it into the consultation document because “they were afraid it could actually be done.”

Professor Chung Kim-wah from the Centre for Social Policy Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University also told RTHK that there were other means to make such a scheme sustainable without pushing up taxes. However, he said the government refused to listen.

Boycott organiser and Chinese University of Hong Kong Associate Professor Wong Hung had said that their group will be hold several rounds of unofficial consultations with the public to ensure that the next Chief Executive candidate cannot sidestep discussions of the issue, Apple Daily reported.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor launch the public consultation paper on universal pension scheme. Photo: Gov HK.

On Tuesday, Chief Secretary and Poverty Commission Chair Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that she “would not accept any criticism that this is a sort of fake consultation”and that the figures on a potential tax hike were not produced to “scare the public” but to “engage the public in an informed debate.”

“The government does not itself produce money, the money to support these sorts of programmes has to come from the people,” Lam said. “It would be irresponsible for the government not to state its position.”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.