Plea to change rice system

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 September, 2005, 12:00am

Community groups are again being urged to come up with better ways to manage their annual rice handouts to avoid elderly people lining up for hours in the heat.

This follows a string of incidents at rice distribution venues in recent days that have left several people injured or ill.

Peter Tsang Fan-chun, chairman of the Hong Kong Society for the Aged's senior council, suggested organisations distribute rice through centres for the elderly or give out coupons for recipients to collect the rice from supermarkets.

'It's a good thing to hand out rice to those in needed,' Mr Tsang said. 'But waiting for hours for a 5kg or 8kg sack of rice is too harsh for elderly people. They are not fit enough for it.'

Injuries or illness have been recorded at almost every Ghost Festival rice distribution this year.

Ho Fung-lin, 82, who lines up for free rice about twice a year, saw people faint during the wait.

She said handing out coupons was a good idea because elderly people could ask their family to collect the sacks.

Rice handouts, part of the annual Hungry Ghost Festival, are an annual Buddhist ritual started about 40 years ago.