Shut duty-free tobacco shops

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2005, 12:00am

It makes sense to increase the tobacco tax, eliminate duty-free tobacco shops at the airport and the mainland border, and remove the duty-free allowance on tobacco for travellers.

Why are we using government property at the airport to push tax-free drugs that kill our people? We should raise taxes, using the money for marketing campaigns to get children not to start and smokers to quit. If we double the tax, and halve the number of smokers, we still get the same income.

Tax money should not be spent on further 'research'. Tobacco smoke kills and pollutes. We should spend only on advertising to counter the tobacco industry's advertising, which lies to children and tries to stop smokers from quitting or smoking less.

As for the propaganda, spouted even by the financial secretary, that increasing tobacco taxes causes smuggling, this is, of course, rubbish. Smuggling happens because we do not require a stamp of the date and origin on each stick of tobacco, and the fact that the industry produces many more cigarettes than it sells legally.

Smuggling is done by the tobacco manufacturers themselves, as has been proven with many cases in Europe, Asia and Canada. Philip Morris is still dragging its feet on the legal settlement it made with the European Union to stop making and shipping more tobacco than it sells legally.

With tobacco stamped with date and origin, we can trace the supply chain from the nicotine pusher's factory right to your nicotine-stained teeth. We can then go back up the chain if duty is not paid, and prosecute every participant. That is how you eliminate smuggling.

All societies use recreational drugs of some sort. But the healthy ones keep an eye on every drug, knowing exactly where it came from and where it went.


Well-dressed earn respect

Properly dressed officials show respect to their job and the people (in answer to your Letters question item last Sunday). Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen wears a jacket and bowtie, which not only reflects his personality and maturity, but shows this respect.

Not all civil servants listened to the good advice of the Civil Service Bureau, when it issued a memo asking them to wear proper clothes at work. Some civil servants still wear casual clothes like t-shirts, shorts, low-cut blouses, sandals, jeans and demin jackets while working in the office.

Some female officials even wear bangles on their ankles. Sometimes they are required to meet citizens, which projects a poor image of the government. Such civil servants are misbehaving and should face disciplinary action. They are breaking the rules and, in effect, trying to turn their offices into homes.

In contrast, although employees in the private sector earn less money than civil servants, they show more respect for customers by always wearing proper and tidy clothes at work.

CHO MAN-WA, Cheung Sha Wan

Beware this kind of trust

The article 'Hutchence's fortune is gone, HK law firm tells late singer's family' (Sunday Morning Post, August 21) revisited the sorry saga of the allegedly 'vanished' fortune of the late Michael Hutchence, lead singer of INXS. This was the subject of earlier articles in your newspaper and of a series in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Earlier, it was disclosed that in the 1980s, Hutchence, with the assistance of his 'financial advisers', transferred his assets, including his performance and royalty entitlements, to a discretionary trust. Two of his financial advisers were appointed as trustees. Despite these advisers' claims, which were cited in your latest article, there can be little doubt that those arrangements were 'tax driven'.

This case may illustrate the great danger of creating a discretionary trust. This emerged long ago, primarily as an avoidance device for inheritance tax or estate duty (by rendering the class of beneficiaries open-ended). Typically, a discretionary trust confers a discretion upon the trustee permitting him to add to the beneficiaries without limitation - albeit the settlor (who establishes the trust) is usually appointed as a guardian or protector with veto powers. The last-mentioned feature will usually provide some security against the trustee adding beneficiaries of his own choosing (as distinct from those chosen by the settlor) - as long as the settlor is alive.

In the absence of such security, a discretionary trust can be likened to passing a signed blank cheque to the trustee. Yet such trusts are not uncommon and have been much used by taxation advisers. Any person advised to execute a discretionary trust should reflect carefully upon the prudence of doing so.

Moreover, if one is to create any trust (especially a discretionary trust), then one needs to choose the trustee very carefully. Besides close family members, there are a host of banks with trustee corporation subsidiaries.


Learning religious lessons

I refer to the Sunday Post Magazine article 'All in good faith' (August 21), on pagans in Hong Kong who worship nature and Earth, and seek inner peace.

Hong Kong residents have freedom of belief and many participate in religious activities. By and large young people do not want to join mainstream religion and keep the commandments, because they think these will harm their freedom.

Sects such as Wicca attract young people. But I want to know if and how followers find a meaningful life and real peace in this worship.

Pope Benedict has asked youth not to see religion as a consumer product and avoid a 'do-it-yourself' concept of religion. One million young people showed that mainstream religion can attract them by joining a Catholic Mass in Cologne. I suggest that mainstream religious groups should share the feelings of youth and encourage them to lead a positive life, raising the number of such worshippers.


HK conservative on gays

By not raising the 'cultural relativist' argument in court, government lawyers failed their duty ('Biased law on gay sex overturned by judge', August 25).

Lawyers are supposed to put their best arguments for the judge's consideration, and the judge will not do his own research on grounds which are not mentioned by the two sides.

Some Hong Kong newspapers have correctly expressed reservations with the judgment in this case. It does not, they argue, give due regard to Hong Kong's more conservative sexual culture - hence the cultural difference, or 'cultural relativism'.

Advocates contend that the exact application of human rights must be subject to the local culture. Dr Joseph Chan of the University of Hong Kong has been a mild advocate of this. But the same university's Professor Yash Ghai argues that culture should not play a role in fundamental human rights analysis.

By not even raising 'cultural relativism', government lawyers deprived Mr Justice Michael Hartmann of a chance to deliberate on this highly contentious issue. If the court had opined on the relevance of Confucian values, or 'Asian values', some would have found the decision less alien. It is noted that Hong Kong judges have sometimes used filial piety, a Confucian virtue, to strengthen their decisions.

CLIFF IP, Tuen Mun

Reliable weather reports

I thank L. Li for her amusing letter 'Issue a rainstorm warning that we can understand' (August 25) about the Observatory's response to the rainstorms just over a week ago.

I have lived in Ireland, where such weather is normal. Ms Li may wonder - since there is no observatory and most Irish people do not have a degree in meteorology - how the Irish know when to go out. They have developed a habit of looking out of the window first.

J. NICHOL, Tai Kok Tsui