LETTER : Hong Kong cares for its citizens

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Sir: In reply to Stephen Vines's article (28 February) on the "Victims of cold" weather in Hong Kong: the sick and the elderly are more vulnerable to sudden changes in temperature. However, the number of deaths we experienced in Hong Kong over the Chinese New Year holidays was in line with the average for this time of year. The Director of Health has confirmed that none of the post-mortems conducted has shown hypothermia to be a cause of death.

Hong Kong has 1,100 people who sleep on the streets. All have been offered alternative accommodation by my department. During last week's cold spell, one street sleeper died. He was a drug abuser who had chosen to move out of his family home.

Our social security system in Hong Kong is not rudimentary. Those supported by it are not in "unbearable poverty". Over the past three years the average payments to a single social security customer have increased by 29 per cent in real terms. The current payment, at pounds 220 per month, is broadly equivalent to the UK old-age pension rate. Total expenditure on social security in Hong Kong has doubled over the past three years.

While Hong Kong is not a welfare state - nor will it become one - the Hong Kong government cares for the welfare of our citizens.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Strachan

Director of Social Welfare

Hong Kong Government

Hong Kong