Hong Kong political parties urge Financial Secretary Paul Chan to give HK$2,000 to every school pupil

Kimmy Chung

The government should provide a one-off grant of at least HK$2,000 (US$256) to everyone in school, Hong Kong’s two largest pro-establishment parties urged on Tuesday, ahead of an expected economic downturn and amid fallout from the now-shelved extradition bill.

They also supported cash handouts for all, in principle, but expressed concerns over the efficiency of doing so, given previous experience.

The suggestion came as city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s approval rating plunged to an all-time low of 30.1 out of 100, down 3.3 points in two weeks. She remained the least popular chief executive in the 22 years since the city’s return to Chinese rule.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) spoke to Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in separate meetings on Tuesday, proposing a range of relief measures.

Carrie Lam is the least popular chief executive since the city’s return to Chinese rule. Photo: Reuters

A one-off grant of HK$2,500 (US$320) for all kindergarten, primary school and secondary school students was among 11 measures the DAB proposed. The FTU had a similar suggestion, but put the amount at HK$2,000.

“Many parents told us they faced a huge burden during the start of the academic year,” DAB lawmaker Vincent Cheng Wing-shun said. “We hope a one-off allowance can alleviate their burden.”

The party raised the same idea last year, but the government said it needed more time to consider the details.

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New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee earlier urged Chan to hand HK$8,000 to all residents, to boost local consumption and retail after the recent mass protests against the extradition legislation.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the DAB, said she supported that in principle.

“If Chan could find a direct and fast way to hand out cash, it would be a good suggestion ... but we just call on him to hand out the HK$4,000 as soon as possible,” she said.

In March last year, Chan announced a handout of up to HK$4,000 for everyone who did not own a property or receive government allowances. The scheme has been criticised as too complicated and eligible applicants were expected to receive the payment only later this year.

FTU lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen echoed Lee’s view, saying her party had always supported a cash handout to all, as long as the government could speed up the process.

Both parties also suggested the government provide an extra one month of allowance to social security recipients and give public housing tenants a month rent-free.

According to a poll conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, Lam’s popularity has plunged to new lows.

More than 70 per cent of about 1,000 residents interviewed by the institute opposed Lam remaining in her post, while only 21.4 per cent supported her as the city’s leader.

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The poll was conducted from July 17 to 19, just days before the Yuen Long attacks of July 21, when about 100 men dressed in white T-shirts – including villagers and suspected gangsters – attacked protesters and passers-by with wooden canes and metal rods at a railway station, leaving at least 45 injured.

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