15 per cent stamp duty
To rein in the city's runaway housing prices, Hong Kong's Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announced an additional 15 per cent stamp duty on non-permanent-resident and corporate buyers starting from October 27, 2012. The move prompted speculation over the effectiveness of taxation on the real estate market and criticisms that Hong Kong was turning away from its roots as a free market economy in favour of a more protectionist market environment.
Letters to the Editor, December 1, 2012
Property tax plea ignores housing needs
The Real Estate Developers Association (REDA) showed its true colours when it wrote to the government asking for so-called luxury flats of more than HK$30 million to be exempt from the new stamp duty ("Developers want luxury flats to be exempt from tax", November 24).
The property tycoons have lost touch with reality, and their sense of entitlement to special and privileged consideration is plainly out of step with the Hong Kong community. This powerful group has long ignored the housing needs of ordinary residents in its quest for outrageous levels of profit. Its interest is to supply investment vehicles rather than homes. Every project becomes a fancily hyped "luxury" scheme regardless of the location, and is priced far out of the reach of most citizens.
Little wonder that Stewart Leung Chi-kin, chairman of the REDA's executive committee, is concerned about a tax on offshore buyers, as they are the REDA's prime target. Overseas investors' lack of local knowledge makes them easy prey. The REDA's concern at damage to Hong Kong's reputation as a free market holds little water, as the property industry is controlled by a handful of powerful conglomerates which in the past 15 years have turned Hong Kong business into cosy cartels.
Hongkongers have been held to ransom by this small group of businessmen for too long, and it was dreadful that the lands policy of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration facilitated the tycoons' bubble-blowing price escalation.
New chief executive Leung Chun-ying is to be congratulated for trying to get to grips with the problem of supplying enough homes for Hong Kong citizens. In such a rich city, it is appalling that so many have to resort to cage homes and coffin-sized bed spaces.
K. Y. Leung, Shouson Hill
Alternative to reclamation must be found
There has been talk of further reclamation projects being launched in order to provide land needed for more housing for Hong Kong citizens.
I would be opposed to any initiatives of this kind, as I think they would have a negative effect on Hong Kong. Also, the whole process of reclaiming land from the sea is expensive.
The government should think carefully about all the issues involved before making a final decision on the matter.
One of my concerns is that reclamation will damage Hong Kong's marine environment. Animals and plants in the areas that are earmarked could be destroyed and the delicate balance of nature would be undermined. When deciding on this issue, the government cannot ignore this problem.
Officials must look at other ways of solving Hong Kong's housing problems.
It should do more to try to control rents and flat prices, which keep rising. It should try to ensure more citizens can purchase their own flats.
Tina Zhong, Sheung Shui
Wardens' duty to police idling engines ban
I refer to Frank Lee's letter ("Creative ways to enforce ban on idle engines", November 29).
Police officers do not have enforcement power over idling engines. The Environment Bureau is the lead bureau in that case. Under the ordinance, environmental protection inspectors and traffic wardens are the authorised enforcement agents.
With due note of their duty commitments, traffic wardens will take appropriate enforcement action against those drivers who do not comply with the requirement.
Eddie Wong Kwok-wai, chief superintendent, Police Public Relations Branch
Priority for Xi is tackling corruption
Although he does not take over from President Hu Jintao until March, the new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping, is already trying to address the problems China faces.
His priority should be to deal with corruption. It is a serious problem in the country and has not been dealt with effectively by previous administrations.
We are seeing more political scandals, sometimes affecting even senior party figures, and this damages the image of the nation. If he wants to improve the international reputation of the country, then he must curb corruption. Corrupt practices which continue unchecked undermine a government.
A country and its economy move forward if there is honest government. Some nations and firms may be put off doing business on the mainland if the situation does not improve.
That can make it more difficult for the country to strengthen its power base.
While I can appreciate that Xi wants China's economy to become stronger, that will be difficult to achieve if people are allowed to continue their illegal activities with impunity.
Nicole Man Siu-ching, Hung Hom
Workplace victims still neglected
When looking at the ways in which China has developed in the past few years, people often remark on its rapid economic growth.
However, the reality in this "factory of the world" is that many migrant workers in unregistered places, known as black factories, are involved in industrial accidents which can lead to them sustaining serious injuries.
This happens because they are working with unsafe machinery and are given little or no training. Also, if they are doing exhausting work on an assembly line, they may lose concentration and get injured.
Official statistics show that 8.2 million people have been disabled through industrial accidents on the mainland ("Maimed in China", November 21).
However, statistics of people paid compensation include only those who signed agreements with their employers. Many migrant workers without such agreements sustain injuries and get no financial help. It is a shame that this problem has not improved over the past decade.
The government cannot ignore this problem. It must accept the disturbing statistics and let people know the truth about these black factories.
Workers have made important contributions to China's economic development and their rights should not be neglected.
I hope measures can be taken to lower the industrial accident and injury rate on the mainland.
Kitty Siu Tsoi-yi, Kowloon City
Child's dream: a world with gay rights
My adorable four-year-old boy has an equally adorable boy-crush on his best friend. He has said on many occasions that he wants to marry him. Unfortunately someone at school told him that boys cannot marry boys.
Since we have several friends who are gay couples, and he has friends whose parents are of the same sex, this comment was very confusing to him.
He asked me in complete earnestness: "Is it really true that boys can't marry boys?" Did I bother explaining to him that in some countries they cannot; in some states of the US, they can and some, they cannot, and it is unclear whether a same-sex marriage in New York would be recognised in South Carolina?
Did I try to explain that, well, most of our gay friends are married in some countries but not in others, even though they are global citizens who often move from continent to continent?
Did I dare explain the implications of this ridiculous state of affairs, that they must fight for spousal benefits, could be barred from hospital visits or even lose custody of their own children in the worst-case scenarios? Of course not.
I replied instead with all the confidence I could muster, "It's not true. Of course boys can marry boys. And girls can marry girls, just like boys and girls can marry each other." (Noticeable sigh of relief from son as confidence in his own world view is restored.)
After all, a mother is entitled to protect her young children from bigotry and discrimination and to instil in them the dream of a better world.
Ember Deitz Goldstein, Wan Chai
Golf ace glory only adds to bitter taste
I agree with I.M.Wright that Rory McIlroy's early departure from the Hong Kong Open golf tournament left a sour taste ("Disappearing act lands us all in the rough", November 24).
This taste became infinitely more bitter upon reading that McIlroy won the DP World Tour Championship in magnificent fashion ("Perfect finish as McIlroy repels Rose in Dubai", November 26).
An elated McIlroy said: "I just wanted to finish the season the way I thought it deserved to be finished", and "I didn't want it to tail off sort of timidly".
Quite so, and it was an astonishing shame that his apparent lack of form in Hong Kong saw him miss the cut, and play, on Saturday and Sunday when his fans were lining up to see him.
Events have left an impression that McIlroy was saving himself for this higher profile tournament in Dubai.
It was not par for the course and your headline could have read "McIlroy repels Bauhinia in Hong Kong".
P. C. Law, Quarry Bay