Following the last local Panda-tantrum, Raw Nerve Freak-Out du Jour comes courtesy of Apple Daily, which reports that Beijing’s Liaison Office is abusing its tax-free privileges by purchasing Hong Kong apartments and letting them out to regular non-employee folks. This prompts criticism from opposition lawmakers, such as James To, who says Hongkongers will resent Beijing’s colonial overseers ‘competing with them’ for housing. The prefect-governor’s office duly goes into mouth-frothing mode and threatens to sue Apple Daily for defamation.
The satraps can’t win. If they are letting the units out to ordinary people, they are cheating on the stamp-duty exemption; if they are hogging the units for their own staff posted from the mainland (or leaving the places empty), they are depriving locals of housing.
But the Liaison Office perhaps has even more reason to be sensitive on this issue. The reports suggest that it has been acquiring some of these flats fairly recently. So these would be new developments – which is to say rather nasty, and definitely steeply priced. After a decade of global asset-price inflation, with locally added stimulus, Hong Kong residential property would not be most prudent people’s idea of a wise, value-for-money investment right now. The Beijing officials might have their own agenda, but simply being seen buying our local little concrete boxes at these prices is a bit humiliating.