British Colonial Hong Kong as a Modern State: Governing of Corruption and Tax Non-Compliance
Corruption and tax non-compliance were persistent and serious governing problems for the Hong Kong colonial government. Nevertheless, the colonial government adopted a more active attitude to combat corruption than tax non-compliance from 1945 to 1997. While the public perception of corruption largely changed from taking it as a way of life to holding it as an intolerable malpractice from 1945 to 1997, the problem of tax non-compliance continued to be rife until the late 1990s. Why was there a differentiation between the colonial government’s attitude and control over these two problems? Through empirical examinations and comparisons of the developments of corruption and tax non-compliance in Hong Kong from 1945 to 1997, this thesis seeks to explain the aforementioned differentiation over the two governing problems and explore the characteristics of the colonial governance in Hong Kong. The modern state-building theory will be employed in the discussion. Based on archival materials, government publications and local newspapers, this thesis argues that the socio-political pressure was the key to push the colonial government to react more actively in dealing with corruption than in tax non-compliance from 1945 to 1997. Despite the colonial status of Hong Kong, this thesis shows that its reactive governance gave the colonial government high legitimacy; its good fiscal condition enabled the problematic tax system to persist. In the light of the importance of fiscal history and the extensive influence of corruption in Hong Kong, the findings of this thesis may provide a new perspective to understand the history of Hong Kong, and may also give new insights into the characteristics of the British colonial governance.