Accountancy’s Hong Kong element

Democracy is different in Hong Kong. No prime minister, but a chief executive
appointed by China. The recently ousted Tung Chee Hwa could tell you a thing or
two about that, as could his replacement, Donald Tsang, the former finance
minister whose appointment was confirmed last week.

It’s a position that may reflect the ‘special relationship’ between the
city-state and China – not to mention its role as a regional financial
powerhouse – but it’s probably not an idea that is ripe for export.

More interesting, though, is the structure of its Legislative Council, Hong
Kong’s parliament.

The council has 60 members, 30 of whom are based on the sort of
constituencies UK electors are familiar with. The other 30 members are made up
of representatives of functional constituencies – drawn from industry sectors
and professions.

The representative for the accountancy constituency is Mandy Tam, a
48-year-old ACCA member who spent much of her working career in the UK.

Tam moved here to further her university education and after qualifying,
worked for Shell UK where she took and finished her taxation qualification.
After living in the UK for 16 years, she returned to Hong Kong in the late 1990s
where she worked for the then Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand, before
becoming CEO of a tax consultancy firm.

Tam’s had been a typical accountancy/tax career until 2003 when SARS struck.
The outbreak of the disease made Hong Kong a pariah state – tourism died, hotels
and airlines emptied, business visitors stopped coming and the economy slowed
worryingly. ‘During the outbreak of SARS, all people in Hong Kong co-operated
and helped each other fighting the disease,’ says Tam, who was herself moved to

She stood as a district councillor and won the Wong Tai Sin seat. The mass
public demonstrations of 2003 demanding more democratic reform spurred her on
further. That’s when she stood for – and won – a seat on LegCo.

She sees her background as ideal preparation for her new role. ‘I do not have
any political affiliation but have worked closely with the pan-democracy camp,’
she says.

‘My background helps me to have direct and sincere dialogue with the business
and industrial sectors. I have substantive working experience in different
fields in the accountancy profession. This unique experience enables me to
collate the views from accountants working in different industries and sectors
and to improve communication within the accountancy profession.’

She plays an active role in the council. She is deputy chairman of its Public
Accounts Committee, she is a member of the financial affairs panel and chaired
the bills committed on last year’s bankruptcy amendment bill.

As well as being an ACCA fellow, she is a member of the Chartered Institute
of Taxation and the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Among her core concerns are long working hours for accountants and
difficulties that newly qualified accountants have to face – as well as the
image of the profession. Tackling those is no small task. But imagine a
politician campaigning on that sort of platform in the UK.

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