BEIJING - The remarks of a member of the top political advisory body at a group discussion about raising income tax rates for the rich, including himself, has become a widely popular soundbite and has created a strong following among thousands of micro-bloggers.
"I suggest imposing more taxes on people like us. We can handle a higher tax rate," Gan Lianfang, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and president of Beijing Xingpai Group, said at a CPPCC panel discussion on Friday.
For his monthly salary of 30,000 yuan ($4,568), Gan said he paid 9,000 yuan in tax. "Authorities should tighten the rope on people like me, and give a break to people on low incomes," he said.
Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily reported his remarks on Saturday, and later put them on its micro blog. By Sunday, the entry had spread among more than 5,800 Internet users, and received 1,500 comments.
Many respondents applauded his comments, regarding Gan as a true representative of the public. Some even likened him to a famous solider in a Chinese patriotic film made in 1964, who exclaimed "fire at me" and sacrificed himself.
"Although the monthly tax you pay is what I earn for many months, I will support you!" said one micro-blogger.
"No matter whether what you said is just for show or not, I support you," read another comment.
Some Internet users were quick to point out that Gan paid too much tax for his salary. Gan explained to the paper that the 30,000 yuan was just part of his total income, and the 9,000 yuan tax was calculated according to the total income.
Some doubted that Gan had paid tax at a higher rate, because his salary and the huge revenues his company makes for him were separate matters.
Since salary has less impact for Gan than for typical workers, some micro-bloggers asked him to leave white-collar workers alone.
"People earning 30,000 yuan a month are already heavily taxed, and the rate shouldn't be raised," several micro-bloggers said.
Besides Internet users' responses, deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) and other CPPCC members held divided views on Gan's idea, Southern Metropolis Daily said.
The paper reported that Ye Youwei, a NPC deputy and chairman of Hengshun Group in East China's Jiangsu province, saw merit in Gan's suggestion that personal income tax (PIT) should oblige the rich to pay more, and should not burden people on low and middle incomes.
Li Hongjin, another NPC deputy and a worker at a textile factory in Central China's Hubei province for 27 years, said she received 1,200 yuan a month net income after paying social security and had never paid such tax, nor had her colleagues.
"The wealth disparity is huge. I'm wondering if government policy can tilt towards us a bit by making rich people pay more tax," Li told Southern Metropolis Daily.
According to the paper, Zhu Zhengfu, a CPPCC member and director of a law firm in South China's Guangdong province, was opposed to Gan's idea, arguing that it was unfair to make certain groups in society pay higher rates of tax.
"It's all fine if you want to do that kind of sacrifice, but do not drag others into it," Zhu said. Zhu supported lower tax burdens on low- and middle-income households, and strong supervision of tax evasion among the rich.
To narrow the wealth gap and allay public concerns over inflation, Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier that this year the government will put more effort into adjusting income distribution.
On Wednesday, the State Council, China's cabinet, approved in principle a proposal to raise the PIT threshold. Its details will be finalized during this NPC session.