Motion on “Inland Revenue (Amendment) (Tax Concessions) Bill 2019” (2019.10.24)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, the Budget has proposed one-off reductions of salaries tax, tax under personal assessment and profits tax for year of assessment 2018-2019 by 75%, subject to a ceiling of $20,000 per case. The reductions, to be reflected in the tax payable for 2018-2019, will benefit 1.91 million people and 145 000 tax-paying corporations and unincorporated businesses. The revenue forgone amounts to $18.9 billion.

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, the Budget has proposed one-off reductions of salaries tax, tax under personal assessment and profits tax for year of assessment 2018-2019 by 75%, subject to a ceiling of $20,000 per case. The reductions, to be reflected in the tax payable for 2018-2019, will benefit 1.91 million people and 145 000 tax-paying corporations and unincorporated businesses. The revenue forgone amounts to $18.9 billion.

However, the Government has often neglected another group of people. While their situation is not as grievous as that of the low-income earners, they are also living miserably, namely the middle-class people. They cannot enjoy the benefit of public rental housing; they often have to go to private hospitals for medical consultation or inpatient care; and they may wish to send their children to better schools. But at the same time, they have to service mortgages and pay for the rates and management fees which, as Members may know, are exorbitantly high to the point of being unimaginable.

There is quite a large number of middle-class people. They are also the most important group of people contributing to the tax revenue of Hong Kong. Such being the case, regarding the Government’s proposal of imposing a $20,000 ceiling on the tax reductions, I think the Government should really be more proactive. After the outbreak of riots in society, we all understand that there is a major cause behind many problems. The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 has been withdrawn now but why have the riots not subsided? It boils down to a deep-seated problem in Hong Kong as revealed in this incident. Many people think that housing is not the only cause and this, I agree. Certainly, housing is not the only cause but I think 80% or 90% of the problem is attributable to it. Think about this: If everyone lives in a flat of several hundred square feet and everyone lives in peace and works in contentment, and if young people aged 18 or 19 already have the means to start a business and raise a family, how would they come forth to engage in these acts? That would be impossible. Could it be that it does not cost anything to do these things? They face the risks of being arrested. Therefore, we really have to answer the aspirations of this group of people.

First, they want freedom and democracy. These, I certainly support. But there is no denying that Hong Kong is part of China. At what pace should we move? Fast or slow? This really has to be decided in negotiation with China. Of course, the Government is duty-bound to convey the public opinions to the Central Authorities, and I believe it has done so. But at what pace should we progress? I think this is something more in the long term and it is not the case that measures are immediately available to achieve it in the short term. I believe it is necessary to seriously make explanations to convince the Central Authorities that the continuous implementation of “one country, two systems” is beneficial to Hong Kong, to the country and to the international community. This must be done. But I am also aware of one point and that is, if Hong Kong is in chaos, in tatters, or made to perish together, that would not do any good to Hong Kong; nor to the country and the international community. Therefore, I share their aspiration for democracy but I absolutely disagree to the use of this approach which is obviously wrong. Let us think about what it means by “burning together”. President, please do not mind me talking about this for I have to point out the kernel of the problem. Otherwise, it would be meaningless to merely address these issues superficially. I hope that you will let me go on for a little longer and as you know, I am not always this loquacious.

Coming back to the point I was just talking about, what will happen after we are all taken down or made to perish together? First of all, let me ask a question. We always talk about democracy and freedom. The essence of democracy is respect for other people. What is happening now is that other people are not consulted when steps are taken to destroy their achievements. As I always say, the middle-class people are most pitiable. They have worked diligently while scrimping and saving, and it takes decades of hard work for them to attain these achievements. Now it is said that their achievements should be destroyed because after all, I do not have these achievements and so, you should not have them, either. Tell me who are selfish, the middle-class people or the destroyers? I surely think that the destroyers are selfish. Suppose you are doing these things in order to show people a way out. For instance, if you are sure that inflicting these damages will usher in a utopia which is 10 times better than the present situation where everybody will have a home of 1 000 sq ft or 2 000 sq ft and make an income of over $100,000, and there will be peace and order in society and everybody will live and work happily, I would, of course, let you do these damages. But now, all I can see is that you are causing damages and I entirely do not see any chance for society to be rebuilt and worse still, it is impossible to return to today’s standard a decade or so after the damages are done and alas, that would be most tragic. Such being the case, what use is there to regret only then? It does not matter to people of our age and honestly, we had lived in poverty and suffered for many years and those days back then were far worse than nowadays, but we still managed to trudge on. I am still haunted by so many memories of the deplorable conditions back then and sometimes I would awaken from dreams with a start. The places were very dirty at that time; there were people taking drugs right in front of our door, the triads with knives in their hands lingering in the neighbourhood, and people being beaten up because of remarks made not to the mobsters’ liking.

Now it seems that Hong Kong has returned to that era when people would be beaten up for their different views. If I think that your achievements are better than mine, I will destroy you. Yet, the media does not make any criticism. If we said the same thing in the past, society would be roused in turmoil anytime. Things are different now. Tolerance has become higher and higher gradually and now, even that is considered acceptable for that is the result of compulsion. If you think this way, then school education really should take most part of the blame. I really think that this is so ridiculous, and what is it that really makes me feel heart-rending to the extent that I cannot even sleep? Kids aged 12 or 13 are told to take to the streets, and these people are even applauded and glorified. Is this not insane? What do kids aged 12 or 13 know? Buddy, they should be playing Lego. As things now stand, do you think that the kids are right in listening to you? Do you think that kids aged 12 or 13 can distinguish right from wrong? We all know how complicated and dirty politics is, and also what enormous interests are at stake. Why is it that the adults do not do it but the kids are made to do it? This should not happen. This really should not happen. And if this happens, this society will definitely regret, and it also shows that you people are dumb.

Have Members noticed that the international community has become less articulate about this incident in Hong Kong now? Because they have seen violence, buddy, and everyone knows that violence is not right. 60 Minutes has filmed shots of a luggage full of Molotov cocktails and people hurling them non-stop, which left the foreigners petrified. They used to speak very highly of Hong Kong as not even a glass panel was broken in a rally with 2 million people taking part in it, and they respected the peacefulness of Hong Kong. You may say that a peaceful, rational and non-violent approach is useless. Yes, a peaceful, rational and non-violent approach works slowly but when putting up a long-term struggle, changes must be induced slowly in order to change the people’s mind, rather than resorting to fear tactics or the approach of the majority suppressing the minority or beating up other people who hold different views, barring them from speaking their minds and doxxing those who continue to speak their minds or making other people stop patronizing their shops. What kind of a society is this? We Hongkongers do not want this kind of democracy. Hongkongers abhor this kind of democracy, so to speak, for it is downright undemocratic and unfree, and it is wreaking havoc on all of our fundamentals, making it impossible for us to rebuild ever again. I, therefore, hope that Members can think clearly about what exactly is happening.

President, I now come back to this Bill concerning taxation, and I hope that the Secretary can really listen to my suggestions on taxation. I think we should make the utmost effort to support the low-income families but at the same time, we should change the social ecology by increasing their income and providing them with more job choices suiting their working ability, so as to enable them to make a better income. We should give them more holidays. At present, there is a discrepancy of five days between labour holidays and general holidays, and in this regard, the Government should make improvement by all means for the benefit of 1 million workers. They will thank the Government if they can have five more days to spend with their families. We certainly have to do this for the benefit of the lower class but efforts should also be made for the middle-class people.

Many middle-class people have said to me that the Government has performed badly and yet it is sending them the green envelope. They hope that they do not have to receive this green envelope from the Government. I understand that tax revenue constitutes a major source of income to the Government but has the Government considered―actually I have put forward this proposal before―waiving tax for people making less than $50,000 a month?What merit is there if people making less than $50,000 a month do not need to pay tax? Let me tell Members this: It will benefit 1.35 million people. I have up my sleeves the information on year of assessment 2016-2017. If people with a monthly income of $50,000, i.e. $600,000 annually, do not need to pay salaries tax, first, 1.35 million people will be very pleased; second, how much does it cost the Government? Not much actually, as it is only $5.1 billion, discounting the $20,000 tax reduction, of course. The loss of revenue to the Government will be $5.1 billion only and so many people would then be very pleased. If they really do not receive the green envelope, I think they will all be delighted.

The Government may ask about how this revenue loss of $5.1 billion can be recovered. Simple enough, the Government can slightly increase tax for people with an annual salary of over $1 million, and I think most Hongkongers are willing to do so. Which is better to the people, being forced to perish together or paying a little more in tax? Of course, it is better to pay a little more in tax. I hope that the Government can go back and conduct studies expeditiously, rather than dragging its feet or merely sitting on the problem after giving audience to views. The Government must tell the Financial Secretary about it. If the Government is willing to adopt this initiative, it can be more aggressive in future by waiving tax for people making $60,000 a month and further increase the threshold to $70,000 a month. This way, the public will think that the Government truly respects the middle-class people, and that it truly appreciates their plights. Do Members know how hefty the expenses are for the middle class? I hope the Government has heard my views today.

To address the problem at root, first of all, I agree with a number of pro-establishment colleagues who said earlier that the community is in dire straits now. Although I am a Functional Constituency Member, people would come to talk to me wherever I go. For instance, I was once in a restaurant and a member of the public came to me and said, “Mr CHAN, see how miserable I am now. I have to take no-pay leave, and this colleague has left, so has that colleague.” Many restaurants have closed down, and many people are out of job. Buddy, do you ever know the miseries of living in poverty and not being able to make ends meet? These people will be the real victims of the notion of “burning together”. Can this do justice to Hongkongers?

So, a colleague said in the Finance Committee, “If you go on doing this, I will tell people to besiege the Legislative Council.” This colleague is so awesome as to be able to tell people to besiege the Legislative Council and surely he can tell people not to besiege the Legislative Council. I believe he has the ability to appeal to people using violence to cease the violence. It is because their doing so will definitely lead to the demise of this movement. Therefore, we must understand that this movement is destined to fail. Why? Because it jeopardizes the people’s interest. You said that there would be benefits in the long term but I do not see any. I can only see the current situation where the people dare not speak up and dare not go out, and they have to be home by 11:00 pm. How miserable it is. Many people have compared the current situation to the occupation of Hong Kong during the war. Do you people know it?

Members in the opposition camp only care about their “yellowish” friends, knowing only to sing praises of them. But do you see that how badly the silent majority has been suffering? How many people are in great sorrow? How many people are depressed, and do you know it? Do you know how seriously Hong Kong is hurt? Therefore, as things have developed to the present state, I think violence must stop. Yet, reconciliation is also necessary. How to achieve reconciliation? I think this Council is demented, thus making Hong Kong demented, too. In this Council there are violent attacks as Members charged at the President and hurled abuses at him. Members ignored the President when he entered the Chamber, defying the rules and regulations; Members entered the Chamber in T-shirts and sneakers exactly because they do not observe the rules and regulations. No one knows that there are rules and regulations in the first place, and it turns out that there is no problem in destroying these rules and regulations, and this is precisely the problem.

Therefore, I hope that Members can set a good example and let the Finance Committee resume normal as the first step. We spent a long time on the election of Chairman and in the 10.5 hours of the election process, I was questioned for nine hours. To me, that was fine because I could withstand them. But the question is, during the election of the Deputy Chairman for which two hours were set aside, should the time not be spent on questioning the candidates for the office of Deputy Chairman? Why was it spent on questioning the Chairman? I was really baffled. Eventually I could not stand it, thus causing delays to the meeting and I think what I did was not quite right. So, I appeal to Members to work for reconciliation for the benefit of Hong Kong. I will, by all means, give Members more time to ask questions, and I hope Members can attend more meetings because we have yet to examine the funding applications for 44 projects costing $70 billion. To live up to the expectations of Hongkongers, we must spend more time holding Finance Committee meetings to make available these funds, for this $70 billion will be most helpful to the lower-class people in Hong Kong. It is also hoped that this can enable Hong Kong to come back to life again.

I am always chided for approving funds more quickly than the finance companies do. I would like to provide some figures for Members. Do not just listen to what they said, and it is a must to look at the figures. According to the relevant figures, I have been the Chairman of Finance Committee since 2015-2016. In 2015-2016, it took two hours to examine and approve a project. In 2016-2017, the situation was woeful as it took over four hours to do so, but the time required was subsequently reduced to 1.3 hours after the procedures of meetings had been amended. In 2018-2019, given the destruction of the Legislative Council Complex and the need to carry out repairs, only the figures in the preceding months are available, and we can see that it took close to two hours to examine and approve each project. Members have criticized me for not giving them sufficient speaking time as a project was approved in only an hour or two. But do Members know that the Finance Committee holds meetings for only 120 hours a year? When Members did not properly utilize time on these important issues but spent it on filibustering in the discussion on each project, that would certainly create serious troubles. If I, CHAN Kin-por, wanted to make things easy for myself, I might as well refrain from arguing with you and allow you to speak for as long as you wish. It would not be a problem even if the projects were not approved in time. But I thought this would let the people of Hong Kong down, nor can I justify it to myself.

So, despite your admonition, I still have to insist on presiding over meetings in a fair, impartial and orderly manner. I hope Members will stop fighting and start reconciliation in the Legislative Council, so that Hong Kong will see the beauty of peace.

Moreover, I wish to seek redress for my grievances. Just now I said that it took us 2.8 hours. But some Members always said that this is different from what the past Chairmen did. For how long a project was examined and approved in the past? In 2012-2013, it took an hour, and in 2013-2014, it also took an hour. Could it be that all Members in the opposition camp did nothing and failed to exercise monitoring on the Government back then? Therefore, the public must see the picture clearly. There are too many lies and too many sophistries in Hong Kong now, and one who does not stay alert will definitely regret.

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