Li Ka-shing

All charity dollars count, no matter what the motivation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 June, 2011, 12:00am

Hong Kong is a caring society. Making charitable contributions and helping the needy is in keeping with our social values. Donations come not only from individuals, but also from big companies and tycoons, through various charity foundations they have set up.

These foundations support education efforts, medical services and the operation of some non-profit social and welfare organisations, as well as the city's cultural development. They provide direct and indirect financial support for many of the underprivileged in society.

The Community Care Fund, established by the government last year, operates under the same guiding principles. Its main objective is to provide assistance to people with financial difficulties, especially those who fall outside the social safety net. It provides a platform for tycoons and corporations to contribute, and brings together various community efforts to help the needy and foster a caring culture in society.

Many expect the fund to help ease the growing tension arising from the rapidly widening wealth gap and the anti-rich sentiment. Hence, they say, tycoons might donate to the fund for political reasons.

However, what motivates them to donate is not important and should not concern us; we can never be sure what the reasons are, anyway. The outcome is the most important thing, and, the fact is, these contributions benefit society. At the end of the day, we should support the involvement of the tycoons and corporations because the end results help those in need.

Most recently, some have criticised tycoon Li Ka-shing's 'Love Ideas, Love Hong Kong' philanthropic campaign, saying it was badly executed by allowing the public to vote online for projects to receive funds. They said the selection method favoured quantity over quality, and feared that some applicants might have manipulated the outcome by planting votes. They said the applications should have been vetted by professionals in the social welfare sector and judged on their merits. Some even dismissed the campaign as a marketing stunt to help promote a socially responsible image for Li and his companies.

We will never know the reasons behind the setting up of the programme. And, to be honest, there is no need to because it serves no useful purpose. We have to appreciate the workings of cause and effect. In this case, the cause can never be determined but the effect is obvious. Most importantly, as long as the community benefits, we should give full support and recognition to all charitable activities.

There is no proof of any vote manipulation. But even if some applicants had indeed abused the online voting system, critics shouldn't have pointed their accusatory fingers at the campaign organisers.

They certainly did not encourage any unscrupulous behaviour. Instead, if any of the applicants had been found to have abused the system, they are the ones who should have been criticised.

This was a private charity programme set up under the Li Ka Shing Foundation, and the people charged with running it can decide how they want to select candidates to offer grants.

Besides, I don't agree that the proposals should have been vetted and assessed by professionals. Why should we support 'professional imperialism' and give the impression that only the professionals can judge what's good enough? That would have insulted the intelligence, and underestimated the collective power, of the public.

The notion of 'Love Ideas, Love Hong Kong', like the Community Care Fund, is to gather all efforts from the community to help in whichever way they can. So, allowing people to vote is a way of empowering and engaging them to support the campaign. We should push aside all the outrageous claims made by small-minded people and not let the little things ruin the big picture.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.