Hong Kong is more than a city of greed

Rosanna Wong says the compassion and generosity of Hong Kong people, which too often goes unrecognised, proves the city is not all about greed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 6:14am

Hong Kong really is far more than simply an international financial hub. We are more than just an economic powerhouse or strategic gateway to China. And we are certainly a people who have more than just an obsession with the stock market, luxury expenditure and brand accumulation.

We are a society which has, in fact, attained global recognition as a city that gives.

According to the Charities Aid Foundation's World Giving Index, Hong Kong ranked 19th last year, with an even more creditable overall ninth place in a five-year ranking. News like this does not make headlines. Neither does the fact that, according to the Inland Revenue Department, charitable donations over the last fiscal year amounted to over HK$9.2 billion, given by both corporations and individuals to organisations and charities that care for others.

This should come as no surprise, for we are all aware of some very public acts of charitable giving. More discreet, but no less important, are individuals whose charitable giving does not make the headlines and who do so with little fanfare.

Every Saturday, passers-by can be seen dropping a coin or note into a flag-seller's sealed bag. Children and young people are often involved, sometimes completely unaware of what organisation they are supporting, but knowing that someone is in need.

Giving always widens the circle. Some of the non-governmental organisations and service agencies work with limited staff, but great passion and heart. Some are small organisations, focusing on issues not really considered "sexy" or newsworthy. Some are advocacy groups or support organisations, while some unheralded agencies provide succour and encouragement, particularly to families in distress.

Yet, in spite of all these examples of Hong Kong's generosity, there is still a very strong perception that this is a greedy place. Is it because acts of giving don't necessarily make front-page news? Or is it that we just prefer not to draw attention to individual or corporate philanthropic largesse?

Whatever the reasons, I feel that we are doing ourselves a great disservice. When I read headlines that scream about making, acquiring or even robbing money, I feel that we send out a very dismal message, particularly to young people. By focusing only on the acquisition of affluence, we miss the opportunity to celebrate the giving of resources which should become part of our core identity as Hongkongers. We miss the chance to set the example highlighting how giving to others can become a part of our DNA, without worrying if others will think we have a hidden agenda or ulterior motive.

When times are challenging, when headlines are so negative, when people in the community feel anxious, we should take the time to acknowledge acts of generosity to the community. In doing so, we also acknowledge the numerous organisations that deserve public recognition for their services.

There is no harm in celebrating what it means "to do" for others. In fact, it would serve as a reiteration of our interconnectedness as a community and foster social cohesion. If the world recognises us as a charitable and giving community, shouldn't we do the same?

Dr Rosanna Wong is executive director of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups