Cars and Politics in Hong Kong
August 2003

Last month, the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong, Anthony Leung, lost his job because of his purchase of a Lexus LS430.

Mr. Leung was once the favourite political star in the Hong Kong government, thanks to his young and intelligent image and his sudden marriage with a famous 2-time Olympic gold medallist of diving, Ms. Fu Ming Xia. Mr. Leung was even tipped as one of the hottest candidates for the next Chief Executive, until he was hit by the Lexus incident.

In February this year, the financial secretary and his wife gave birth to a little baby. He found there was a need to buy a car suitable for taking his wife and baby. Being an ex-banker, money is no problem. His own daily transport is a Porsche 996 Carrera, which is of course unsuitable for this task. His other car is a Lexus LX470 luxurious off-roader, which he considered has a floor too high for his wife and baby to get abroad and off. Therefore he decided to buy a proper luxurious sedan. 

Having tested a Mercedes-Benz E320 but could not have the desired color without waiting for next shipment, he went to the Lexus showroom and ended up with a LS430. Job done. A new father with a beautiful wife and a baby, a 911, a Lexus and a luxury SUV, a fortune enough for the rest of his life, a bright future for his political career. Everything seemed perfect.... until March.

In March, the financial secretary announced a new financial plan for the new financial year, which focused on reducing government spending and increasing income to counter the red figures. Among all increase of taxation, the most spectacular is the registration tax for cars. Expensive cars like Mercedes S-class would be taxed for up to 150% of the net price. For example, a Ferrari 360 Modena used to be sold at HK$2 million or US$260,000 (which was already expensive due to the already high taxation). According to the new taxation it will be priced closer to HK$3 million or US$400,000. 

The new taxation was scheduled to be effective in April. A powerful local newspaper discovered that Mr. Leung registered a new Lexus LS430 just one month ago. That means, he saved around US$20,000. In theory, Mr. Leung should have already planned for the increase of taxation when he bought the car.
Mr. Leung denied the speculation that he use his position to earn for his own good and explained that he was just too busy for his new baby and forgot to be careful for this sensitive issue. However, his honesty was in doubt by the public, especially after some meeting records were leaked from his political enemy inside the government which proved that someone else already reminded him to report for any conflict of interest.

In the July 1st big protest, half a million of Hong Kong people roared against the Tung Chee Hwa government for his series of misadministration and how he pushed the legislation of the National Security Law. Many people also accused Anthony Leung’s refusal to resign. 

On July 16, Mr. Leung finally resigned to save the government and the Chief Executive (at least for now). On the same day, the government official responsible for promoting the National Security Law, the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, also resigned. The people won.

Strangely, Mrs. Ip’s daily transport is also a 996 Carrera. Maybe next time those who hate Mr. Tung can consider to give him a 996 Carrera as a present, the sooner the better.

Mark Wan

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