Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee’s Policy Address has been criticised for lacking concrete plans to tackle poverty, with underprivileged residents saying Lee should have been more generous with welfare.

The city’s economy has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation, with the poorest households suffering the most, a recent report revealed.

Lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Meeting the press at the Legislative Council after Lee delivered the first Policy Address of his term as leader on Wednesday afternoon, lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen, who represents the social welfare sector, said the chief executive “did not do his homework” on the matter of poverty alleviation.

The only self-declared non-pro-establishment member of the legislature said Lee’s plan to address intergenerational poverty in his Policy Address simply repeated an existing programme to provide 2,000 underprivileged students with mentors. “This progress is disappointing.”

“He [mentioned] targeting poverty alleviation, but… he only briefly mentioned that he would restructure the Commission on Poverty,” Tik said. “There is no aim, no strategy, no method, no KPI.”

Underprivileged groups’ reaction

The Society for Community Organization invited representatives from underprivileged groups – including subdivided flat residents, people from low income households and those experiencing homelessness – to watch the live stream of Lee’s Policy Address delivery on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Wan, 78, who does not currently have a home, told HKFP that he felt people like him were “forgotten” in Lee’s proposals for the city.

Chief Executive John Lee met the press after announcing his first Policy Address on October 19, 2022. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

“This group of [homeless] people… are humans too, they are also Hongkongers. If you do not care about them, how can you say you are concerned about the underprivileged?” Wan asked.

In his maiden Policy Address, Lee laid out plans to establish a Primary Healthcare Authority to coordinate medical services for underprivileged groups. He also promised a scheme that would refer those who were identified as being at high risk of suffering from chronic illnesses to the private sector for further examination, with the government paying for half of their medical fees.

The existing annual health care vouchers for elderly will also be raised from HK$2,000 to HK$2,500.

SoCO and underprivileged groups meet the press on October 19. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Wan said only the HK$500 increase in health care vouchers was relevant to him, but he said it was “not very meaningful.” He has been diagnosed with heart disease and a single visit to the doctor already cost more than HK$600 already. “It may be of some use if they increased it by HK$1,000,” Wan added.

Lee also promised to ask the Minimum Wage Commission to study how to enhance the review mechanism of the city’s minimum wage, without providing details on any proposed changes. Local media reported last week that the commission had agreed to raise the minimum hourly wage to HK$40, which was expected to come into effect next May.

A woman who gave her name as Ah Sa said the government should make sure that workers could provide for their families on the statutory minimum wage.

“A [minimum hourly rate] of HK$40 cannot support the expenses of most families,” she said, adding that the past three years had been “very difficult” for many people, as they were placed under pressure from both the pandemic and inflation.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.