Checking in with the Tax Resistance Movement in Hong Kong

Today I’ll try to catch up on what has been going on with the tax resistance campaign taking place in Hong Kong as part of the “umbrella movement” protests for democratic reforms.

Beijing loyalists had been pushing what they were calling a “universal suffrage” bill, but one which would only allow people to vote for candidates that had been pre-screened by a Beijing-controlled committee. This bill failed to pass the Hong Kong legislature , which was seen as a victory for pro-democratic forces.

The tax resistance campaign has posted a series of bulletins on about the campaign and its historical precedents, including:

  1. An introductory article about the campaign, answering these questions:
    1. What is civil disobedience?
    2. Why do you want to launch civil disobedience campaigns in Hong Kong?
    3. Will noncooperation include acts of violence?
    4. What are examples of noncooperation acts?
    5. Do you have specific recommendations for action?
  2. Thoreau’s civil disobedience, refusing to pay a tax for the invasion of Mexico
  3. Evan Reeves’s tactic of paying taxes with 5,574 small-denomination checks
  4. Tax resistance for women’s suffrage in Britain
  5. Answering the question: won’t paying taxes in an inconvenient, symbolic fashion just make trouble for innocent civil servants?
  6. Raymond Kwong sends in 2,000 checks to pay his taxes (his eventual goal is 9,280)
  7. The poll tax resistance campaign in Britain
  8. The tax riots led by Ge Cheng in in Suzhou
  9. Did Jesus preclude tax resistance when he said “render unto Caesar?”
  10. The tax resistance & redirection of Julia Butterfly Hill
  11. After 50 hours of work, Raymond Kwong finishes filling out and sending in 9,280 checks for his taxes

some of the illustrations accompanying the series of articles about the tax resistance campaign in Hong Kong

The movement seems to be exploring new tactics. The last time I checked in, the tactics being discussed seemed to mostly be either underpaying tax by a symbolic amount or paying the complete amount of the tax but in a symbolic fashion (by writing a large number of checks each for a value that is a number with symbolic value for the campaign).

Since then, I’ve seen a number of new tactics mentioned:

  • Overpaying the taxes by a symbolic amount so that the government cuts a refund check for that amount.

    some of the refund checks received from Hong Kong Inland Revenue

  • Expanding the underpayment or payment-with-many-checks method to other payments to the government besides taxes, such as student loan repayments, rates at government-run housing, and utility bills.

    people brought their checkbooks to an event where they could use rubber stamps to quickly make many $6.89 checks

  • Donating money to charity so as to reduce the amount of tax owed.
  • Responding to a notice of assessment with an objection (in the 1cm×18cm space provided for objections) to the effect that the unrepresentative, violent Leung Chun-ying regime has no authority to assess taxes.

    fine print fills the space allowed for objections to the tax assessment

Both income and property tax arrears are up by double-digit percentages, according to government figures, but it is difficult to determine to what extent this is a result of the noncooperation movement.