On a rain-drenched evening, under Times Square's sheltered entrance, we grabbed quotes from Hong Kong residents who were not only eligible but ready and eager to get their HK$6,000 tax rebate from the government. Even those who weren't going to benefit had a sense of the excitement for friends and relatives who were eligible. Hong Kong's permanent residents are to receive HK$40.5 billion (the cost to the government, including cash handouts and tax rebates, according to spokesman Patrick Wong). Early in March, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah opted to hand out the cash and tax rebates instead of, for example, infusing the pension fund accounts.
The scheme has been received with much scepticism and criticism. But as the random sampling of opinion below demonstrates, people are delighted that the government is refunding part of an enormous surplus back to the citizens.
Lam Kwok-yiu, 23
I heard about the HK$6,000 online, then I read about it in magazines and newspapers, and of course, all my friends were talking about it. It's not yet time for me to get the application papers, but I've already started thinking about what to do with the money - travel, I think. It's nice to get away for a holiday. I've never heard of a government handout like this - it's great. I hadn't heard about the HK$200 bonus if we wait 'til next year. But I don't think I will wait.
David Mok, 46
I was very happy to hear permanent residents would receive HK$6,000. I read it about in newspapers first and then followed up online. I'm glad to know I'm eligible. I'm not sure what I'll do with it right now - maybe shop for sporting goods. I have friends and know people who got the money. It went very fast; people spent it almost immediately. No one I know has the patience to wait for an extra HK$200 by applying for it next year. With senior citizens, I heard a man joke on TV that he might not be alive next year, so he wants to get it as soon as possible!
Lam Hin-tung, 21
As soon as I can apply for the forms for my HK$6,000 rebate, I will. I was so excited to hear about it. I heard about it first on the news on TV. Then, in the following days, we kept the paper that had the information on how to apply, where to get the forms and how to do it. That's a lot of money to get, and I'm going to go shopping, I think, or travel. It's not enough for a long trip away, but maybe some place close ... I'd like to go to Singapore or something.
Greg Wong Lok-tin, 21
As a student, I'm not sure if I'm yet eligible for the HK$6,000 rebate; I've never paid any income tax. But my family has, and they are all very excited about the rebate, especially my cousins. I've been hearing about it more than talking about it as I'm not getting any money. I'm going away to study in the US, so this doesn't apply to me at the moment. But it's nice to think about what you can do if someone just gave you HK$6,000.
Merylyn Li, 45
When I first heard the news that we were eligible to get HK$6,000, I was thrilled. I haven't got the money yet - not even the forms. I think we'll get them much later in the year - probably around Christmas - so I'm torn between saving it and buying presents for my family, like my daughter Rioielle. I think it's a wonderful thing the government has done. I've never heard of any other government giving back money to their citizens. It's great to be in Hong Kong!
Phyllis Chow, 35
I was very happy to hear the news of the HK$6,000 rebate. I heard about it first online, I saw it on a newsbyte when I logged onto my bank page. I got all the information I needed, how to fill in the forms and when to send them. At first I thought I'd spend it on buying clothes or something for my young son, but after some thought, I've decided to give it to a local food fund. As a mother, I thought of other children who might be hungry somewhere out there. This is a better use.
Martine Frieser, 27
I have a work visa in Hong Kong and haven't lived here long enough to receive the HK$6,000, but I heard it about it from all my colleagues and on the news. I wish I were eligible for it. If I did get it, I'd probably invest it or save it. I'm from the Netherlands, and similar benefits aren't unheard of, but it's definitely new to Asia, isn't it? I'm not sure if it's the right thing; there must be a better way to benefit society at large, raising the minimum wage, for example.