A vision of hope, but nobody was smiling

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2003, 12:00am

It was a tale of two perspectives. In the Legislative Council chamber, the financial secretary spoke of the inevitability of change, of turning adversity into opportunity, conquering mountains and the destiny of Hong Kong as a 'world economic power'.

He admitted it may be the worst of times but struggled to convince the public that by pulling together, they could make this the best of times. Brochures that accompanied the Budget depicted smiling citizens consuming to their hearts' content as they happily paid heavier taxes and shouldered cuts in benefits.

And to show the unified sharing of burdens, there was none of the hype over the colour of the Budget's cover this year because there was none. Reporters were given a no-frills book of black and white words and charts while a select few glossy copies were distributed to chief editors - no optimistic yellow-covered version of last year.

Mr Leung, who travelled economy class to Nanjing in December and had his Olympic medallist wife give birth to their first child in a public hospital last week, stressed time and again that he was a member of the public, a man of the people. 'My salary will also be cut and I will also have to pay more taxes', he said, smiling.

But there was another perspective. Outside, 200 protesters wielded placards proclaiming they were living in 'Asia's Worst City' and banners depicting broken rice bowls.

In the wind and the drizzle, maids told stories of the injustice of wage cuts, a deaf group silently represented its worries about cuts in welfare benefits, and grassroots organisations complained of the burden of tax increases.

They were not smiling.


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