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A Foreboding Feeling
After a period of three months, we can eventually take a breather. Today (29 April) is the sixth day in the past nine days when there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases. We all look forward to our life returning to normal soonest possible.
The proposal for the second round of the Anti-epidemic Fund was passed by the Legislative Council on on 18 April. We all have high expectations of it and hope that the Fund can help people in all sectors and tide them over their financial predicament. The education sector – mostly publicly funded –sustains relatively less economic loss but there are still many who are seriously affected. Rejecting any indolence and working diligently with all relevant parties, we have successfully fought for and achieved the following results:
1. a sum of $10,000 and tax relief for all Hong Kong permanent residents aged 18 or above (the Budget)
2. a one-off special anti-epidemic grant for all schools, ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, depending on their category and scope of operation (Education Bureau)
3. a one-off grant of $60,000 to $160,000 for kindergartens participating in the subsidy scheme and a grant of $80,000 for kindergartens not participating in the scheme (First Round of the Anti-epidemic Fund)
4. an extra one-off grant of $50,000 to $150,000 for special schools with dormitories (First Round of the Anti-epidemic Fund)
5. a one-off grant of $80,000 for private secondary and primary schools (Second Round of the Anti-epidemic Fund)
6. A one-off grant of $40,000 for tutorial schools (Second Round of the Anti-epidemic Fund)
7. A relief grant of $7,500 for qualified instructors, coaches, trainers and operators of interests classes engaged by schools (Second Round of the Anti-epidemic Fund)
8. An employee salary subsidy capped at $9,000 per month for 6 months for qualified employers, including those in the education sector (Second Round of the Anti-epidemic Fund).
It is a pity that in the second round of the Anti-epidemic Fund, there are no means to ensure that huge amounts of subsidies running to hundreds of millions of dollars provided to employers will not simply turn into their windfalls. Worse still, the Fund fails to provide reasonable subsidies for those who become unemployed due to the epidemic. We know that quite a number of teachers in private independent kindergartens have been laid off and are in urgent need of help but the Government requires them to – as with other unemployed people – apply for assistance under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA), which disqualifies applicants whose family assets go beyond stipulated levels. For an individual who is single, what he/she can get is a meagre amount of slightly more than $2,000 a month. It is most regrettable that while spending more than $100 billion of our reserves, the Government refuses to meet the urgent needs of the people. We will continue to unremittingly strive for a third round of the Anti-epidemic Fund so as to help them and others (such as education centres) not yet covered by the Fund. We will also keep a close watch on the operations of kindergartens and other schools.
Whilst the COVID-19 epidemic has yet to be conquered, tempestuous waves keep coming in…
On 13 April, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO) of the State Council and the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR (LOCPG) suddenly issued press releases expressing their views on the operation of the Legislative Council’s House Committee. This caused a furore with public opinions saying that matters relating to the Legislative Council should be settled by the Council itself and that What HKMAO and LOCPG had done violated Article 22 of the Basic Law and the ongoing commitment and constituted an interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
On April 18, the Information Services Department of the Government issued within one single night three successive press releases one amending the other. They went to the extent of overturning what the Government had stated in the past and publicly recognising that LOCPG has so-called ‘supervisory power’ over Hong Kong and is therefore well justified in intervening in Hong Kong's internal affairs! Not only does this blatantly violate the provisions of the Basic Law, it also contravenes the spirit of ‘One Country, Two Systems; Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong; and a High Degree of Autonomy’. This development is bound to impact various aspects of the entire community. It is important that the education sector also keep a close watch on developments, defend ‘One Country, Two Systems’, ‘Hong Kong People ruling Hong Kong’ and ‘a High Degree of Autonomy’ as well as safeguard the core values and lifestyles of Hong Kong people (including our education system). We would also urge HKMAO and LOCPG not to arbitrarily exceed their powers, so that the Hong Kong community can have a breather.
Finally, I would like to urge everyone to seize the last opportunity for registration as voters in the upcoming election and encourage relatives and friends to do so. Here is a link to the registration. The deadline for registration is fast approaching: 2 May.
Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
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Office of Legislative Councillor Ip Kin Yuen (Education Constituency)
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