HK Time Out Magazine – Column #18

timeout

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Pet Abandonment
For two years I lived in the heart of the pet district on the cusp of affluent Ho Man Tin. Here I saw how, for many locals and expats alike, pets have unfortunately become semi-disposable fashion accessories and status symbols (big dog = big flat = big money!) Whether it’s the latest trend in exotic reptiles or dressed up designer puppies in pimped up prams, the pet market is booming in a city hardly suited to domestic animals.

It’s left to the government to destroy around 10,000 dogs and 4,000 stray and unwanted cats annually- all are put down within 3 days whilst stretched animal charities receive no state support. HK Dog Rescue particularly suffered during the recession, and what with the Pokfulam kennels landowner evicting the charity in February, it appears 200 more dogs may be destroyed unless homes are found or the government steps in (Read more or donate at hongkongdogrescue.com).

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #17

timeout

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Taxing Times
Einstein claimed that the hardest thing to understand in the world is tax, yet even our most air-headed pseudo-model would grasp HK’s straightforward tax system. We’ve no sales, estate or currency tax, capital gains or VAT, and individuals pay 2%, 8% and 12% income tax progressively. Only the filthiest of the filthy rich (just 1.7%) pay the highest band of 17%. HK’s rates are relatively super low – it may just feel a lot because our demands arrive in one annual beating, such is the simplicity of our tax law. In fact, the entire ordinance stretches to just 200 pages and has barely changed in 60 years.

Pleasingly, the richest 8% (100,000 Peak-dwelling posh types – CEOs, lawyers, magazine editors etc…) contribute 57% of the total tax yield. Meanwhile, 60% of HK workers pay sod all – just as well since we’ve Asia’s widest poverty gap and no minimum wage. However, the tax burden distribution is shifting very slowly towards the less well-off with tax on the rich falling and talk of introducing a VAT – effectively an indiscriminate, indirect tax on the poor. Already public spending is around 10% lower than many similar countries at just 20% of GDP.

Activism – Letter in The Standard

Activism

Hong Kong’s Sing Tao newsgroup owns the territory’s second largest Chinese language newspaper and its only free English daily. Their pro-government stance has stood both before and after the 1997 handover to China, switching its support to Beijing after Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control as a Special Administrative Region. Sing Tao’s global circulation is second only to the International Herald Tribune and it has aligned itself with several mainland news outfits.

In 1996 several staff members were arrested by HK’s anti-corruption unit after manipulating circulation figures. In 2001, Sing Tao’s Canadian arm was issued an injunction by Quebec Supreme Court for describing the Falun Gong as an ‘evil cult’.

Recently, a spate of poorly-written editorials by Mary Ma have caused upset amongst their English newspaper’s readership, who – being generally immigrants and ex-pats – do not share her conservative, anti-democratic, pro-CCP politics.

In May, a letter I wrote was printed questioning Ms Ma’s dismissal of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

My latest letter questions another controversial editorial in which Ma slammed “frequent… ugly… radical” activists speaking up on behalf of the majority of Hong Kongers.

The Standard 08.12.09

Dear Sirs.