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Good news coming for Hong Kong workers on mainland as Chinese vice-premier Han Zheng hints at tax exemption

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 29/9/2018 Kimmy Chung
a group of people standing in front of a crowd © SCMP

Chinese vice-premier Han Zheng has hinted to a Hong Kong delegation in Beijing that a tax exemption for Hongkongers working on the mainland would be rolled out “very soon”.

Han also reassured the group from the Federation of Trade Unions that the central government had always valued people in Hong Kong and Macau.

The No 7 official in the party hierarchy, who is the top official responsible for affairs in the two special administrative regions, met the delegation on Saturday afternoon.

Stanley Ng Chau-pei, the group’s president, said they had raised concerns about the impact of the recent amendment to the national tax law. In the meeting, Han asked them to be patient when it came to new policies.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Dickson Lee

On August 31, a tax law amendment proposed by the Ministry of Finance was approved by the country’s top legislature. Set to take effect from the beginning of next year, the change will require Hong Kong residents who stay or earn their main income on the mainland for more than 183 days a year to pay tax on any other earnings around the world.

The existing law requires them to pay tax only on their income from the mainland.

The change has sparked concern, and the local deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) and national advisers had been lobbying for an exemption.

Ng, also a local NPC deputy, quoted Han as saying: “The central government has always valued compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau. There would be appropriate arrangements on tax, and good news would be announced very soon.”

Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to the standing committee of the NPC, has suggested the problem could be solved by updating the treaty between the central government and the Hong Kong government so as to avoid double taxation.

Meanwhile, Han touched on the Hong Kong National Party’s ban, the first party to be declared as an unlawful society by the government on Monday on grounds of national security.

Lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a member of the 40-strong delegation, said: “Han said national security was very important, and the central government supported how the Hong Kong government handled the Hong Kong National Party.”

Yet she said Han stopped short of talking about the legislation of the national security law, but urged the federation to support the Hong Kong government to rule according to law.

a group of people posing for a photo © Edward Wong

Han also told them to raise more policy suggestions, including on enhancing the well-being of Hongkongers on housing issues, and on aspects of the “Greater Bay Area”, the national development scheme to forge an economic powerhouse across Hong Kong, Macau, and seven cities in Guangdong province.

During his opening remarks, for which the media were present, Han praised the work of the federation, which celebrated its 70th year in existence this year.

“We highly appreciate what you have done over these years, ranging from uniting labourers in Hong Kong, defending their lawful rights of social and political participation, to contributing to our country’s development plans in different periods,” Han said.

Han mentioned that this year marked the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up – a historical turn from a planned to market economy launched by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978.

“The central government is going to hold a conference to commemorate the sweeping changes [brought by the reform] to the country that we have all witnessed,” Han said.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions is in the middle of a three-day visit to Beijing. Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, also took part in the meeting with Han and had dinner with the delegation.

Additional reporting by Su Xinqi

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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