Our class visited the Legislative Council as part of our school‘s Liberal Studies Curriculum. It was really amusing to see the LegCo members debating on a hot topic“Whether there should be a means test for the Old Age Living Allowance”. Recently, the authorities proposed to launch a bigger amount of Old Age Living Allowance in order to help the elderly who are in dire need of financial help. But it sparked a lot of controversies as the government suggested a means test for it. There were lots of discussions regarding this topic in the past few weeks. Therefore, it was really a precious chance to hear our lawmakers debating on it.
Soon after the LegCo members reached their seats and we public audience had settled down, the Chairperson, Mr Tsang Yuk Shing, announced that the LegCo members could start their discussion. The first LegCo member delivering his speech was Mr Tam Yiu Chung. At the beginning of his speech, he stated his stance. He totally agreed that there should be a means test. His argument was that the tax burden on the next generation would be extremely heavy without a means test for the allowance as Hong Kong is going to face the problem of aging population. His argument was supported by lots of statistics and calculation that were also included in the speech. It made his agreement really persuasive and it reflected that he had made adequate and thorough preparation before the discussion. “While we are concerned about the elderly, dear all, why not pay some attention to our innocent youngsters, as well as our future leaders?” He ended his speech by asking this question, which invited the others to look at the issue from a new perspective. I was impressed by this experienced debator.
The second LegCo member giving his speech was Mr Wong Yuk Man. “Tam Yiu Chung! Shame on you!” He pointed at Mr Tam and spoke loudly. His thunderous voice was so loud that I could feel every word of his strike my eardrums. He argued that the elderly were the foundation of our prosperity and it was our responsibility to repay them. It would not be respectful if a means test was set against the elderly. Therefore, he strongly opposed the introduction of the means test. “The elderly are suffering? How can you wealthy people be so cruel?” He suddenly threw out a banana when it was close to the end his speech. He was then warned by the Chairperson. He was a debator with strong feelings that could influence others, but his behaviour was sometimes too violent.
The third LegCo member delivering his speech was Mr Tin Pak Chun. His argument was that it would be unfair if the rich elderly and the poor ones received the same amount of allowance, and it was the government which should bear the responsibility to use the limited public funds fairly to achieve the optimal effects. Thereby, he agreed to introduce a means test. “Shut up! You don’t respect the elderly!” His speech was interrupted by Mr Wong. To my surprise, he did not shout back angrily, but just responded with a smile “Dear Mr Wong, is it fair to give the same amount of allowance to Mr Li Ka Shing and to an old man living in a subdivided flat? Is it a way of respecting the elderly?” He gained a big round of applause. He was an elite debator with good manner.
After a series of discussion, it came to the voting session. The Chairperson announced that 50 LegCo members had cast their votes and 41 of them agreed with imposing the means test, while 9 of them opposed it. As a result, he declared the permission from the Legislative Council that the means test could be launched. Mr Wong threw another banana to the Chairperson and was ordered to leave the hall. The public audience were delighted and gave a big round of applause.
As a member of the school debating team, I learnt a lot from the LegCo members. Being a LegCo member is far much tougher than being merely a debator although the two roles share some common features.
Firstly, careful preparation is essential before giving a speech. Our LegCo members collect a lot of information and data before their meeting. Also, they are able to think of different perspectives to approach the topic as well as the needs of various stakeholders. They need to care about the benefits of our society as a whole. Therefore, they could produce persuasive speeches and share constructive ideas.
Secondly, a good manner is very important in a debate. Some LegCo members are so rude that they leave a bad image to the audience and his counterparts, while some LegCo members can maintain a good manner and it makes their speeches more persuasive.
All in all, this is undoubtedly a meaningful experience. I recommend all of you to visit the Legislative Council and I am sure that you can learnt a lot from it.