Hongkongers abroad set to claim handout
Gary Cheung and Dennis Chong
For Vivienne Huang, a permanent resident who has lived most of her life in Taiwan and no longer has a Hong Kong bank account, spending a few thousand dollars on an air ticket and accommodation to get the HK$6,000 cash handout promised by the Hong Kong government will still be a good deal.
The Hong Kong-born woman, who works in a financial services company in Taiwan, says she will definitely fly to Hong Kong to collect the cash: 'I'm satisfied with the size of the cash handout because it was much more generous than what the Taiwan government did in 2008.' Four years ago, the Taiwanese government gave each of the island's 23 million residents NT$3,600 (HK$840) worth of shopping vouchers to stimulate consumption.
Hong Kong officials say they do not know how many permanent residents have emigrated, nor do they have have estimates for how many will return to the city to collect their cheques. They say the giveaway will cost HK$37.9 billion.
Permanent residents with a personal bank account at any of the city's 21 retail banks will be able to register with their bank - and may register electronically if the bank has such a service.
Those without a Hong Kong bank account can leave their registration forms in drop boxes at post offices or send them by post; they can then collect their cheques at specified post offices. Permanent residents who have emigrated must have an account at a Hong Kong-based bank to receive the money; if they do not, they must collect their cheques in person from one of the designated post office.
Registration will start on August 28 for permanent residents aged 65 or above. Other age groups will be invited to register in four subsequent phases. The process will end on December 31 next year.
The windfall for 6.1 million adult permanent residents was announced after a U-turn in March by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who, in his budget speech a week earlier, had proposed injecting HK$6,000 into the four million accounts of Mandatory Provident Fund members.
The Macau government, which began handing out cash to the public in 2008, has gone one step further than its Hong Kong counterpart in delivering the cash to permanent residents living abroad. Macau residents who live, work or study abroad have crossed cheques mailed to them. The government uses the address they registered with the Identification Services Bureau when they applied for an ID card, unless the resident has made a declaration changing their correspondence address.
The Macau authorities gave 4,000 patacas to each permanent resident and 2,400 patacas to each non-permanent resident this year.
Macau legislator Au Kam-san said there was a need for the Macau government to send cheques to permanent residents living abroad as many Macau residents had emigrated to, or worked in, Portugal and other former Portuguese colonies.
'It's easier for the Macau government to manage, as our population is much smaller than that of Hong Kong,' he said. 'Perhaps the Hong Kong government intends to set some hurdles for those who have emigrated to get the cash.'
The cost to the government, in Hong Kong dollars, of a tax rebate - also announced recently - for those who pay salaries tax