Dispute looms over collection box at temple entrance

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2009, 12:00am

A dispute may be looming between two charities over a collection box at the entrance of the hugely popular Wong Tai Sin Temple, which returns about HK$6 million in donations.

The Sik Sik Yuen, the religious charity that administers the temple, is consulting its members over the placement of the box in a move that has mystified the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, which owns the box and collects the money under an agreement dating back more than 50 years.

Under the agreement the Sik Sik Yuen, a Taoist, Buddhist and Confucianist charity, has managed the temple, while the Tung Wah Group has run soothsaying and temple goods stalls outside.

The Sik Sik Yuen confirmed yesterday that it was conducting a survey to collect members' views about the placement of the box, but refused to comment further or say why the matter had arisen at this time. 'Our temple conducts surveys to collect views from our 200 members who are mostly Taoist practitioners about different issues on an irregular basis. Concerning the ongoing poll, our temple has no further comment to make. We still have not taken a stand on the issue,' a spokeswoman said.

Tung Wah public relations manager Ivy Lau said the group would contact the Sik Sik Yuen to discuss the matter. 'TWGHs will try to settle the matter in a fair and reasonable manner,' she said. 'But as far as we understand, TWGHs has the right to place the donation box at the temple entrance. We don't think we have to pay the temple any management fee for placing the donation box there and we are not occupying any of their space.'

She explained that in 1956 the Secretariat for Chinese Affairs - now the Home Affairs Bureau - delegated responsibility for management of the temple to the Tung Wah Group.

Under a further agreement with the secretariat, the group signed a deal transferring the temple management to the Sik Sik Yuen while Tung Wah ran the stalls outside, now the TWGHs Wong Tai Sin Fortune-telling and Oblation Arcade, Ms Lau said.

'According to the agreement, TWGHs would be allowed to place donation boxes at the entrance of the Wong Tai Sin Temple, charging a 10-cent admission fee. The admission fee is no longer obligatory nowadays,' she said.

Income from the donations is used for supporting the additional expenses incurred by education services benefiting children and youths studying at TWGHs schools, Ms Lau said. 'Every year, the current chairman of the board of TWGHs is appointed as one of the directors to the board of Sik Sik Yuen. Both parties have always respected each other over the 53 years since the agreement was signed,' she said.

A spokesman for the Home Affairs Bureau said that if the two charities wanted to make changes in the agreement, the bureau could help them engage in a dialogue. 'If the two parties agree to make changes, the bureau can help them,' he said.