Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has found herself in the firing line as both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps questioned the way her government is handling certain livelihood issues.
In an apparent attempt to ease tensions between the legislative and executive branches, Lam, who is known for being “combative”, assumed a humble tone and told reporters on Tuesday before attending a regular Executive Council meeting that she would reflect on recent livelihood issues and accept criticisms pertaining to those.
She also promised to study whether the government’s special grants and supplements should be extended to cover able-bodied Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients as well.
According to some government sources, the chief executive’s decision to look into the feasibility of a proposal is usually a signal that she will give it the green light.
As far as the controversy over the eligibility for the elderly CSSA scheme is concerned, after all the tweaks made over the past two weeks, things are pretty much back to square one; the administration has already made every possible concession that it could make regarding the issue.
As such, the government sources believe, there is hardly any room for further compromise on the part of the chief executive when she attends the Legislative Council’s Chief Executive’s Question Time on Wednesday. She is likely to give further explanations, but nothing more than that.
In the meantime, pan-democratic lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, who represents the social welfare functional constituency, revealed that he has called on the pro-Beijing camp to join him and the pan-dems in seeking another meeting with Lam to demand that the measure raising the age bar for elderly CSSA applicants be shelved and the CSSA scheme itself be completely reviewed.
His call has received mixed responses from the pro-establishment camp.
Leung Che-cheung of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong admitted he has reservations about continuing to pressure the chief executive over the CSSA issue since she has already demonstrated sincerity by agreeing to reflect on her previous approach.
Leung said he is more inclined to give the government more space to refine its policy.
On the other hand, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong told us that she remains open to the pan-dems’ suggestion.
It remains to be seen whether the meeting with Lam over the issue is going to materialize.
Meanwhile, there is talk that Lam and her principal officials are going to attend a brainstorming session in February to reflect on how to be more in touch with the public sentiment and genuinely meet social needs.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 30
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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