Pro-democracy lawmakers have said a meeting with Chief Executive Carrie Lam over the elderly welfare controversy “ended on bad terms” on Monday.

Seven lawmakers – Shiu Ka-chun, Fernando Cheung, Ip Kin-yuen, Lam Cheuk-ting, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok and Leung Yiu-chung – met with Lam for an hour.

They discussed the recent controversy whereby the government increased the eligibility age for elderly Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) payments from 60 to 65, effective this Friday. The change was widely criticised by the public, and the government had to announce a concessionary measure for able-bodied adults aged 60-64 receiving CSSA to make up for the loss in welfare payments.

pro-democracy lawmakers Carrie Lam
Meeting between seven pro-democracy lawmakers and Carrie Lam. Photo: Facebook/Dennis Kwok.

After the meeting, social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu quoted Lam as saying that the government will not change its policy direction on increasing the age threshold, nor will it conduct a full review of its CSSA policy.

“We ended the meeting on bad terms. To be more exact, we left with anger,” Shiu said. “We asked for reasons, she did not give us any. We asked for improvements, she refused to do so.”

Leung Yiu-chung demanded Lam retract the age threshold increase policy, or conduct a review before its implementation. Lam refused.

Elderly people protests
Elderly people and lawmakers protest new arrangements for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme. Photo: Facebook/Fernando Cheung

Fernando Cheung Lam as being detached from reality: “She completely ignored the negative reactions of the public and political parties caused by the policy,” Cheung said.

Before the government announced the concessionary measure on January 18, Lam met with lawmakers of the pro-establishment camp. As democrats accused Lam of selectively meeting lawmakers, Lam said in response at a press conference that they were “jealous” of the pro-establishment camp.

At the meeting on Monday, Lam admitted that she misspoke over her claim, according to Ip Kin-yuen.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.