by Adam Wright
Government officials like to trumpet Hong Kong's impressive showings on annual rankings of global economic freedom and anti-corruption, but many people may not know the city is also regularly ranked as one of the most charitable.
After the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, Hongkongers donated more per person than anywhere else in the world; last year, Hong Kong ranked 18th on the Charities Aid Foundation's 'world giving index', with 70 per cent of residents making donations to charities - the highest level in the region, nearly double that of Taiwan.
Interestingly, the city's philanthropic nature is believed to have stemmed from the British colonial government's hands-off policy towards welfare. Voluntary organisations stepped in to provide health, education, and other social services, leading to a strong charitable sector that continues to thrive in these post-colonial times.
While barely a week goes by without a benefit of some kind, a range of events have been announced for the coming weeks to raise funds for the victims of the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami that shows Hong Kong's spirit of giving is alive and well.
First up is the big one: the Love Without Borders Candlelight Gala being held at Victoria Park from 7pm this Sunday. Hosted, of course, by action movie star Jackie Chan, the concert will feature about 100 performers including big names from the world of Canto-pop such as Alan Tam Wing-lun and Shirley Kwan Suk-yee, along with Chinese-American rapper MC Jin. The main performers have also recorded a theme song for the event, Succumb Not to Sorrow, which is based on a Japanese poem.
Earlier that day, Shirley Kwan will also be performing at another benefit - the Pray for Japan fund-raiser at Discovery Bay Plaza. Starting at 1pm, the concert will also feature a host of interesting local acts including 31G, Helium 3 and Jing Wong, along with the Pray for Japan Big Band, who will add a bit of swing to this sombre occasion.
If you believe laughter is indeed the best medicine, head to the TakeOut Comedy Club's Japan Comedy Charity Show, which starts at 8pm this Sunday. Featured comics include acclaimed locals Vivek Mahbubani and Jami Gong, and all proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross relief effort.
Meanwhile, the Dance for Japan fund-raising event at Chai Wan's Youth Square from 7.30pm next Tuesday will present more than 30dancers from various styles, including Japanese performers Kenji Hidaka, Eriko Ochiai, Ayako Fujioka and Ami Sakachi. The show was put together in response to a call from So Hon-wah, the founder of the Youth Ballet of Asia and the former principal dancer of the Hong Kong Ballet, for a fund-raising performance and will include a commissioned programme, choreographed by Ricky Hu and Yuh Egami, being performed by most of the participating dancers.
Hong Kong-based Japanese musician Koya Hisakazu has been hosting an array of fund-raising shows since late last month and next up is the We Rock for Japan charity concert at the Fringe Club on April10 with bands including Helter Skelter, Dark Himaya and False Alarm. The second We Rock for Japan concert will be held at The Wanch on April 17 with US outfit Volifonix, plus Japanese bands ATM, Ocean Boulevard, After Hours, Catfish Kings and Hinabeya.
Finally, a very special guest is due to perform at a charity concert at the Four Seasons Hotel's grand ballroom on April 14. Yuto Miyazawa is an 11-year-old guitar prodigy that has shared the stage with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, and is the embodiment of the confidence and optimism that his countrymen will call on to rebuild their shattered nation with the help of these funds raised in Hong Kong.