Netizens scoffed at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s account on his Facebook page Monday of a workshop he attended to experience poverty, news website dbc.hk reported Tuesday.
Together with Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung and about 200 secondary students in groups of four or five, Leung went to get a taste of the life of the poor through a workshop organized by the Hong Kong United Foundation Ltd. and the Junior Chamber International Hong Kong.
Leung said he was assigned to play the role of a middle-aged dishwasher who makes about HK$9,000 (US$1,160) a month to support a family of five people belonging to three generations.
He said that in his role, he had to “work very hard to earn a salary, which is then used to pay rent, tuition fees for the children and the costs of transport, canned food and instant noodles”.
Leung concluded, “Yet, through the concerted effort of the entire family, there is a little surplus left every month.”
Netizens responded immediately, saying what Leung described was impossible.
An article on TOPick argued that it was possible for a single mother to raise a family of four with a salary of HK$8,000 a month 16 years ago, but it is far from feasible in today’s Hong Kong.
The article quoted a dishwasher named Ngor-jeh (娥姐) as saying it was ridiculous to talk about raising a family on HK$9,500 a month.
“Why doesn’t he actually come down and wash dishes for a day to see what it is really like?” she said.
Ngor-jeh single-handedly continued raising her three children, aged six, eight and 10, when she lost her husband to a traffic accident 16 years ago.
She worked as a dishwasher and earned about HK$8,000 a month.
“We have had to be very cautious with spending,” Ngor-jeh said.
“I had to walk to work to save on bus fare to buy the children an occasional meal at McDonald’s, and we could only afford fries and ice cream, while I would make some sandwiches at home,” she recalled.
“We never dined out. We would always eat at home before we went out.
“We always bought bread that was expiring the next day, so it would be cheaper.
“We would buy fruits just before stalls were about to close. Five apples for HK$3, and I let the children eat the three OK ones, while I had the better halves of the two rotten ones.”
Even 16 years ago, life for a family of four on a monthly income of HK$8,000 was so difficult, so how would it be possible to have a surplus raising a family of five on HK$9,500 a month?
“Winter melon was HK$2 per catty 16 years ago, and now it’s HK$15,” Ngor-jeh said.
Leung stressed on his Facebook page that housing and poverty issues go hand in hand and said he rolled out measures to tackle housing problems right after he assumed office.
He also boasted about the re-establishment of the Commission on Poverty during his term, which has facilitated the designation of a poverty line.
Leung said government expenditure on welfare has gone up by over 40 percent in four years, while the number of people receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance has been on the decline.
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