• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 7:25am
Column
PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 3:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 3:21am

Don't take Hong Kong's middle class to be misers

Alice Wu says contrary to portrayals by some politicians, Hong Kong's middle class do not mind the working poor getting some help

I'm going to call it: the biggest loser of the policy address is the middle class. But it's not because they got "nothing" from the policy address, as Voice of the Middle Class chairman Alvin Lee Chi-wing claimed.

It's true we didn't get any handouts. But since when did the middle class expect handouts from the public purse? And if people who perceive themselves as middle class actually need handouts from the government to make ends meet, then we have a new set of problems.

The reason the middle class is a victim in all this is because its name has been taken in vain. Blame politics. The middle class is so ill-defined that political exploitation is easy. We also have Dominic Lee Tsz-king of the Liberal Party to thank, and all of those who have jumped on the bandwagon.

The Ebenezer Scrooges within the sizeable segment of Hong Kong's middle class might have been the first ones to begrudge the working poor getting a helping hand. But they are a minority.

Hence the picture being painted of a stingy middle class in Hong Kong is very far from the truth. As of last year, Hongkongers are among the top charitable people in the world, ranking 17th out of 153 countries and regions. With 63 per cent of this city's residents donating to charity, we, the middle class, are not the miserly kind.

We understand that the government is actually trying to do something to get people out of poverty. The aim and purpose is to lessen the burden on the welfare system before they become part of it.

Yes, the middle class have some issues with our immigration policy. We have housing, education and economic issues. We also have a problem with what our politicians do in the name of the middle class.

For the most part, members of the middle class know that we bear a disproportionate burden, and that we are not entitled to entitlement programmes. We pay our dues and we would like the government to leave us to our own pursuits.

We want the government to lessen our financial burden - lower taxes and lower costs of living - and want it to create equal opportunities for all. We would also like it to clean our air as well as our streets so we can live better. We ourselves would like to provide for our future generations and leave them with a little more than we were provided with.

But while we don't have high hopes because we are clear about the difference between needs and wants, we are also not blind to the HK$1.4 trillion the government has in reserves. We can appreciate the fact that, with so much stashed away in the bank vaults, it would be crazy - and political suicide - for anyone to suggest raising taxes for the middle class.

So lay off the efforts to pit the have-somes against the have-nots. And cool it with the runaway rhetoric that gives the middle class an undeserving bad rap. We are not all French-film-watching, latte-sipping Scrooges who make it a sport of kicking people while they're down.

So, before the budget is upon us, how about a little peace and quiet for the middle class to spend time with their families over Lunar New Year?

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA

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