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Following is a question by the Hon Christopher Cheung and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council on December 4:
The Social Welfare Department launched the “Guangdong Scheme” in October this year, under which eligible Hong Kong elderly people aged 65 or above who choose to reside in Guangdong Province may receive a monthly Old Age Allowance (OAA) and they are not required to return to Hong Kong each year. I have learnt that at present, Fujian Province is the place of origin of about 1.2 million Hong Kong permanent residents, and more and more elderly people have chosen to reside in Fujian Province in recent years. Yet, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare told the media a few months ago that at this stage, the Government had no intention of extending the coverage of the Scheme to provinces other than Guangdong Province. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that at present, the eligible elderly people residing in both Fujian and Guangdong Provinces may apply for and receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payments, why the authorities provide OAA only to the eligible elderly people residing in Guangdong Province but not to those in Fujian Province; of the circumstances under which the Government will provide OAA to the eligible elderly people in Fujian Province;
(b) whether it has assessed the number of eligible elderly people who will benefit should the coverage of the Guangdong Scheme be extended to those residing in Fujian Province; if it has assessed, of the findings; if not, whether it will conduct an assessment; and
(c) given that the Government indicated in June this year that after implementing the Old Age Living Allowance (OALA) and the Guangdong Scheme for a period of time, the Government would explore the feasibility of allowing eligible elderly people who chose to reside in Guangdong Province to receive OALA, when such a plan will be implemented, and whether it will be applicable to the eligible elderly people residing in Fujian Province at the same time?
My reply to the question raised by the Hon Christopher Cheung is as follows:
(a) Against a unique background, the Government has chosen to implement the Guangdong (GD) Scheme in the GD Province to allow eligible Hong Kong (HK) elderly people who reside therein to receive the Old Age Allowance (OAA) without having to return to HK. First, GD is the preferred destination of HK residents who choose to retire on the Mainland. Moreover, there are unique and close ties between GD and HK in geographical, economic and social terms. With a number of major transport infrastructural projects coming on stream, travelling between the two places will be more convenient and elderly people who have moved to GD can still maintain close contact with their relatives and friends in HK and obtain support more easily. The close ties and unique relationship between the two places have also been enshrined in the Framework Agreement on Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation signed in April 2010. We are of the view that at present only GD carries the characteristics in question.
Currently, an elderly person benefiting from the GD Scheme receives the OAA at a monthly rate of HK$1,135. Applicants aged 65-69 are subject to a means test while those aged 70 or above are not.
The Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (PCSSA) Scheme is a special arrangement made under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme. The CSSA Scheme provides financial assistance to families that are unable to support themselves in order to help them meet their basic needs. At present, elderly persons aged 60 or above who have received CSSA continuously for at least one year and choose to take up residence in GD or Fujian (FJ) may apply for the PCSSA Scheme. Such elderly persons will continue to receive their monthly standard rate payment and annual long-term supplement. Depending on their health condition, the standard rates range from HK$2,935 to HK$5,000 per month.
The GD Scheme and PCSSA Scheme are two different schemes with different policy considerations and objectives. Recipients of the OAA are not limited to those in financial hardship and the number of OAA recipients far exceeds the number of elderly persons receiving CSSA. We consider that it would not be appropriate to compare the GD Scheme with the PCSSA Scheme directly.
(b) We have not assessed the number of elderly beneficiaries if the GD Scheme is to be extended to FJ.
(c) The GD Scheme was launched in October 2013. We will draw on the experience gained from the first year of implementation of the Scheme in exploring the feasibility of extending the Old Age Living Allowance to GD.