If they are gonna take you out, you might as well go out beating your chest. Make no mistake, Beijing is determined to take John Tsang out of contention in the so-called Chief Executive election. As such, he has a choice: Go out as a meek also-ran or plant a stake on the political landscape that will resonate for years.
Intimidation against the 1200 electors has reached the point where they are being threatened to have their fingerprints on ballots checked to determine how they vote. Furthermore, they are required to take cell phone pictures of the ballots to prove that they heel the party line. The Liaison Office is said to be making daily calls to electors making certain Carrie Lam is Hong Kong’s next unelected leader; the fix is in more than ever before.
Yet with just about 3 weeks to go, and within the system he so cherishes, John Tsang can leave a marker in public that will continue on in economic and political discussions for years. He doesn't need to call for independence or throw a fit over a rigged system. He can go one better -- calling into question the legitimacy of an unelected government with overflowing coffers to collect a salaries tax. Political enlightenment can come at all stages in life, and there is no reason why Tsang can't wake up in these final weeks to the fact that there is no legitimate need to tax the labors of our people.
No taxation without representation is a great political battle cry for Hong Kong, but in our sensible city a more convincing argument may be that a salaries tax is simply not needed. Government taking our money to build white elephant projects for favored groups is de facto corruption. It robs our people of their cash, and our city of an efficient administration. Officials with overflowing coffers are as motivated to seek value for public money as a fat guy is to leave a cake shop.
Oh, and did I mention we are loaded. We are simply rolling in financial reserves and we could have dumped the salaries tax long ago and yet have reserves that the world would envy. As the accompanied chart shows, we have had cumulated surpluses of approximately $490 billion since 2010, but at same time collected about $390 billion in salaries taxes. In other words, we could have dumped the salaries tax and still have $100 billion surplus for the 7-year period.
In fact, go back twenty years, we were still creating more in surpluses than we collected in salaries tax. And with nearly $980,000,000,000 in current fiscal reserves we have all the cushion we need for any rough times. Abolishing the salaries tax is not fiscally reckless. Instead, it will deny funds for ill conceived reckless spending.
While advocating the abolition of the salaries tax will not, sadly, affirm Hong Kong as a city by the people, Tsang will be proclaiming to the world that we are a city for the people. He will be putting the Hong Konger ahead of the government, and instead of advantaging cronies, by abolishing the salaries tax, his administration will make Hong Kong ever more competitive with our people reaping the benefits..
We are a rock and a floodplain that couldn't grow enough rice to handle lunch for a day in our city. We earn because people come to our city as they can earn. We live in a competitive world and after common defense and public safety there is no higher duty for government than to make us an economically competitive city.
Abolishing the salaries tax is a message of hope versus Carrie Liam's message of order. It is a message of a fighter, not that of a Beijing puppet. John Tsang may not win the “election”, but he can score a win for the Hong Kong people if he is willing to brave the fire, stand up,and beat his chest as he changes the economic conversation of our city by calling for the abolition of the salaries tax.