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Battle over quake aid hurts charities

Kelly Ip, Eddie Lukand Jeraldine Phneah

Thursday, April 25, 2013


The row over a government proposal to donate HK$100 million to the Sichuan quake victims is discouraging people from helping other charities involved in relief work.

And the reluctance was compounded after the Legislative Council's Finance Committee failed to vote on the funding request yesterday.

Salesman Jason Lee Choi- yin said he had no qualms when he donated in 2008 to help the victims of the Wenchuan quake, but had second thoughts about doing the same this time.

"I'm worried by the accusations of corruption among mainland officials," Choi said. "I want the money to reach those in need."

The Salvation Army admitted such sentiments affect its fund-raising drive for the quake, which has so far totaled HK$1.2 million.

"The public is having second thoughts," senior communications officer Sue Kwok Wing-suet said. "In the past, they donated right away."

A Hong Kong Red Cross spokeswoman said it is understandable for the public to be concerned about transparency in the wake of recent scandals surrounding the Red Cross Society of China.

The most prominent case happened two years ago when a young woman calling herself Guo Meimei claimed she was a manager in the society and showed off her wealth on the internet.

"We believe the public can judge rationally whether or not to help the quake victims," the spokeswoman said. "But since there are thousands of victims in need, should reputation really be the first consideration on whether to donate?"

She said the Hong Kong Red Cross has raised about HK$7.56 million so far.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she is disappointed that the HK$100 million donation request failed to win the support of lawmakers.

Committee chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan said he had not expected so many questions to be raised, adding the government would have to ask for a new meeting to tackle the request.

Pan-democratic legislators said they opposed donations to provincial governments because of concerns over corruption, suggesting the money should instead be distributed through international nongovernment organizations.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan acknowledged the corruption concerns, but said needy people are waiting for help.

Commentary: Page 6

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