A group of people who have lived in Hong Kong for seven years or more but lack permanent resident status have urged the government to include them in the consumption voucher and cash payout schemes designed to stimulate the economy.

Anti-poverty NGO the Society for Community Organization (SoCO) demonstrated outside government headquarters on Thursday to ask Financial Secretary Paul Chan to include non-permanent residents who have lived in the city for more than seven years.

SoCO stimulus schemes
Ng Wai-tung (second right) and a group of non-permanent residents who lived in Hong Kong for more than seven years protested outside the government headquarters on July 12, 2021. Photo: SoCO.

Currently only permanent residents, holders of “One Way Permits,” and dependants sponsored by permanent residents are eligible for the government’s HK$5,000 consumption voucher scheme, which was launched last month.

Only permanent residents aged over 18 are eligible for the HK$10,000 cash payout scheme launched in June last year. Applicants can seek the permanent status after seven continuous years living in the city.

People who have lived in Hong Kong for more than seven years but were denied permanent residency, foreign domestic workers and work visa holders were not eligible for either scheme.

SoCO said some applications for permanent residency were denied because of previous criminal records. It called their exclusion from stimulus schemes “discriminatory” since the rehabilitated offenders had already been punished.

The NGO estimated there were around 50,000 to 100,000 people who lack permanent resident status despite seven years in the city, and questioned the government’s rationale behind their exclusion.

consumption voucher
The government’s online portal for the consumption voucher registration. Photo: GovHK screenshot.

Community Organizer Ng Wai-tung, who took part in Thursday’s rally, told HKFP that the NGO had met members of the Legislative Council in February, before the consumption voucher scheme was launched.

Ng said some lawmakers told him they suspected the exclusion from the earlier cash payout was unintentional. “Then I told them that I hope that they won’t miss out the group the second time [in the consumption voucher scheme].”

Ng added that asking Chan to expand the schemes was the only way forward, as he could not find a legitimate reason why such people had been excluded.

HKFP has reached out to the Financial Secretary’s Private Office for comment.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.