Letters to the editor, January 29, 2016

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 2:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 2:31pm

Targeted tax could fund state pension

I refer to the letter from Kristiaan Helsen (“Use dividend tax to fund state pension”, January 13).

First of all, I wonder how long your correspondent has lived in Hong Kong, where one of the keys to our financial viability has always been our low tax regime, and survival philosophy?

To tax dividends or introduce a capital gains tax, as suggested, is, of course, a tax on savings and hard-earned money of entrepreneurs. To do this, so as to give the middle classes a “free” pension, has never been, nor should it be, a part of the Hong Kong strategy to fund a universal pension.

Hong Kong has a unique situation that cannot be compared to mainland Chinese cities or “most developed countries”. Money is transferable out of Hong Kong any time it gets hot. To tax assets or dividends is not going to work. This is becoming widely recognised elsewhere.

The most sustainable way of providing for a pension scheme would be to tax consumption. Thus, a 12 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, beer, wine and other target items would help, as it would be raised from the same people who cry out for freebies. In Mexico, which has one of the highest levels of diabetes and obesity in the world, a similar tax has resulted in sustainable tax collection and a healthy decline in consumption, thus achieving its objective.

Hong Kong has always tried to keep to the principle of “user pays”, and so should it be, broadly speaking, with the proposed state pension.

Richard Paine, Causeway Bay

Kerry has no place dictating on North Korea

I am totally jaundiced concerning the American mouthpiece John Kerry’s visit to Beijing (“US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Beijing on mission to pressure China on North Korea’s nuclear tests”, January 26). Whatever the real reason for Kerry’s visit, North Korea’s underground test and its after-effect should be compared to that of the US testing of its own bomb on Hiroshima, which resulted in the instantaneous incineration of 10,000 non-combatant citizens and a lifetime of pain and disfigurement for many thousands more.

My own view of the US-North Korea situation is no more, nor less, than America’s irrational hatred and fear of communists and the coming rise to supremacy of the People’s Republic of China.

I take as my starting point: the entry by America into the Korean civil war in 1950, which, by 1953, even American sources defined their own military actions during that conflict as war crime. The initial action – by saturation bombing – turned to wasteland every installation of communication, every factory and every village over thousands of square miles leading to the Chinese border at the Yalu River.

My own wish is for China to do nothing to deter the North Korean government in whatever steps it decides is in its own best interests. Sending Kerry home to think again would be a fine start.

John Charleston, Tuen Mun

Copyright law will foster creativity

Desmond Chan Chun-fai missed the other side of the moon which is as bright as the sun, where creativity is protected by the copyright law (“Internet will grow dull with new law”, January 16). One example is the movie industry. With legislation, productions will not be pirated by the mafia and rebels who copy premiering movies and sell these copies ahead of the cinema showing.

When creativity is protected and encouraged, there will be many productive inventions and surprises, such as Alan Turing inventing the computer, followed by Bill Gates’ Microsoft Office; Tim Berners-Lee creating the wonderful World Wide Web, followed by the introduction of YouTube. All of them painted our world with beautiful colours.

The internet will never be boring.

Pang Chi-ming, Fanling

Wheelchair athlete an inspiration

I refer to your article, “Inspirational Fung Ying-ki makes it back-to-back wins in the Hong Kong Marathon 10km Wheelchair race”, January 17). Fung said he would keep competing and hoped this would inspire more wheelchair athletes. His perseverance is inspiring to others, too, not just wheelchair athletes. ­­

He has shown me that anything is possible.

Fung said being the best in the competition was not his sole focus anymore, but that his intention was to encourage disabled people to join in.

This tells me that being at the top of any event does not mean anything by itself. Say we compete among a group of friends. We set a target, prepare well and try our best to beat the others. In the competition, we challenge one another to improve.

Fung is a real-life example of what can be achieved.

Benson Wong Tat Hin, Tseung Kwan O

As projects dry up, is Victoria Harbour next?

As a highly experienced consulting engineer, Mr Ronald Taylor must have had his tongue very firmly in his cheek (“Link to HK Island judged impractical”, January 19). “What has changed” from 20 years ago is that the useful road projects he and others were then planning have now mostly been built. Government departments such as the Civil Engineering and Development Department, which generate capital works projects, must identify new demands to maintain annual spending on concrete and consultants’ reports.

Now that Beijing’s demand for infrastructure connections has been (almost) met, how can this level of annual spending be maintained without requiring reclamation in Victoria Harbour? Especially when we are faced with yet another economic downturn.

As a potential beneficiary, I look forward to the rebirth of the Lei Yue Mun suspension bridge project, aborted in the 1970s because the towers would have interfered with Kai Tak radar. And isn’t it about time our mainland government had a prestigious office at Tamar Park?

R. Coates, Lai Chi Kok

Protesting students crossed the line

When someone is forced to talk to you under threat, that is not “conversation”, that is coercion (“Surrounded: University of Hong Kong students besiege governing council meeting, demand talks with Arthur Li”, January 27).

A group of students restricted the personal freedom of some of the members of the University of Hong Kong governing council on Tuesday night, even trying to block an ambulance from leaving. Such behaviour is unacceptable, no matter how one tries to package it with a “righteous” cause.

The students have their right to stage a protest or a class strike to express their demands, but they have no right to storm a building and stop people from leaving because they think their demands are not satisfied.

The time for setting up a committee to review HKU’s governance structure was unanimously agreed by the members, including the student representative. How can you try to force the council to change a decision that was arrived at through a democratic process?

What is more is that the students’ actions were based on wrong information. Some of course said that the messages they receive were confusing. However, couldn’t they wait until a formal announcement was made, or, at least, shouldn’t they confirm the messages were correct first?

And, defying all logic, the same student representative who supported the decision at the council meeting said during a radio programme that he joined the students outside the venue afterwards. Why did he agree with the decision in the first place?

Being open-minded does not mean tolerating unreasonable behaviour. When the students cross the line, we should tell them that this is simply wrong and they should stop.

David Akers-Jones, president, Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong