BMC Public Health 2012, 12:717 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-717
Whereas taxation on alcohol is becoming an increasingly common practice in many countries
as part of overall public health measures, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Government is bucking the trend and lowered its duties on wine and beer by 50 percent in
2007. In 2008, Hong Kong removed all duties on alcohol except for spirits. The aim of this
paper is to examine the case of Hong Kong with its history of changes in alcohol taxation to
explore the factors that have driven such an unprecedented policy evolution.
The research is based on an analysis of primary documents. Searches of official government
documents, alcohol-related industry materials and other media reports on alcohol taxation for
the period from 2000 to 2008 were systematically carried out using key terms such as
“alcohol tax” and “alcohol industry”. Relevant documents (97) were indexed by date and
topic to undertake a chronological and thematic analysis using Nvivo8 software.
Our analysis demonstrates that whereas the city’s changing financial circumstances and the
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government’s strong propensity towards
economic liberalism had, in part, contributed to such dramatic transformation, the alcohol
industry’s lobbying tactics and influence were clearly the main drivers of the policy decision.
The alcohol industry’s lobbying tactics were two-fold. The first was to forge a coalition
encompassing a range of catering and trade industries related to alcohol as well as industryfriendly
lawmakers so that these like-minded actors could find common ground in pursuing
changes to the taxation policy. The second was to deliberately promote a blend of ideas to
garner support from the general public and to influence the perception of key policy makers