“The majority of Hongkongers hope to be self-reliant, therefore our welfare policies are not going to take care of lazy people,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in a blog post published on Sunday.

“I dared to make big moves with helping the poor and old because I have confidence in Hong Kong,” he said. Leung said that over the last four years, expenditure on welfare has increased 55 per cent, and that “the money was used on those who needed it.”

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The homeless. Photo: CharlieEady.com

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While welfare is one of the focuses of Leung’s administration, critics have said that the government’s proposed retirement protection plan will barely help pay the bills in Hong Kong.

In its public consultation document for a universal pension scheme, the government expressed its “reservations” towards the “regardless of rich or poor” policy – one of two approaches proposed for the implementation of universal pension benefits in Hong Kong. Under the programme, every elderly person would receive HK$3,230 each month.

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Hong Kong’s elderly. File

Leung said in his blog post that those who those who received comprehensive social security assistance because of unemployment was at its lowest since 1997, 36 per cent lower than when he took office. Moreover, the numbers of those who received assistance because of low income was at the lowest since 1998 – 45 per cent lower than when he took office.

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Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

More than 40,000 seniors in Hong Kong fell below the government’s poverty line in 2014, pushing up elderly poverty population in the city to 320,000, according to the Commission on Poverty.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.