16 January 1998

Democratic Party Meets Chief Executive Tung; Calls for Lower Taxes, Bird Flu Vigilance

Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee, Vice chairman Dr. Yeung Sum, Lee Wing-tat, Fred Li, Dr. Huang Chen-ya, Law Chi-kwong and Economic Policy spokesman Sin Chung-kai today met with Hong Kong Chief Executive C.H. Tung and submitted a 6-page proposal to respond to the current economic crisis, including tax exemptions for existing and for first-time homeowner and tax incentives for the commercial and industrial sectors.

The new tax proposals were today presented to Mr. Tung and to Financial Secretary Donald Tsang to stimulate the economy and to spur confidence as Hong Kong confronts the regional economic decline. They included a proposal for a tax incentive scheme and for free mortgage interest for first time home-buyers to alleviate the financial burden of the middle classes. In addition, the party recommended freezing government fees during the economic downturn.

In light of the current crisis in the financial sector, the party also made suggestions for the commercial and industrial sectors, recommending a tax breaks to encourage employee retraining and competitiveness among enterprises. Party Chairman Martin Lee said: "Our reserves are Hong Kong people's money saved for a rainy day. As anyone can see, it is raining."

As the sixth victim of the Bird Flu died yesterday, the Democratic Party members also cautioned Mr. Tung that Hong Kong would reach the peak of flu season soon, and that the Health Department should be on high alert for a recurrence of the Avian Flu. Government resources should be allocated to research and combat the threat on a long-term basis, as flu viruses tend to mutate and become more contagious.

The democrats warned that there was no room for government complacency and that it was important for the government to be -- and to be seen to be -- concerned about the effects of recent economic and medical crises on confidence in the future.

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