Yaan earthquake

Party papers remark on Hong Kong quake donation furore

Pan-democrats are quoted approvingly in attacks on credibility of mainland charities

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 3:50pm

Two Communist Party mouthpieces yesterday reported the controversy in Hong Kong over the HK$100 million donation to earthquake victims in Sichuan - pointing the finger at the Red Cross Society of China.

The articles, in People's Daily and the English edition of Global Times, came after the Legislative Council passed the government's funding request on Friday - a vote that saw 23 pan-democratic lawmakers oppose it.

The Global Times story quoted radical legislator Wong Yuk-man's criticisms of the donation, saying that many Hongkongers agreed with him. Last Wednesday, the overseas edition of People's Daily said "only a minority of Hong Kong people" were against the donation.

The mainland edition of the same newspaper said it was "worth thinking about" the lack of trust in mainland charities that the 23 votes reflected. Meanwhile, its sister newspaper, Global Times, devoted a full page of its English edition to the topic.

It said the reputation of the Red Cross Society, China's largest government-backed charity, was "in tatters after a series of corruption scandals".

The donation has been attacked online in Hong Kong, including on sites mainlanders use. Over the past week, People Power lawmaker Wong's words at the Legislative Council's Finance Committee meeting had attracted more than two million views on the YouTube-like video portal youku.com.

"Scandals happen time and time again with charities like the Red Cross Society of China," People's Daily said in a front-page commentary. "They must realise that a huge effort is required for them to regain their credibility."

The Global Times piece cited figures showing that the video had been forwarded more than 80,000 times on weibo, and that nearly 90 per cent of viewers had clicked the video's "thumbs up" button to show their agreement with the sentiments Wong had expressed.

"While some Web users were offended, many, already outraged at the charity after a series scandals, agreed with him and praised him for speaking the truth," the report said.

It also included remarks by Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, another rare mention of a Hong Kong pan-democrat. Mo had also opposed using Hongkongers' money for the donation.

It quoted her as saying that "she was surprised and touched that many mainlanders had the same feelings".

Veteran political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Beijing regarded the reluctance to donate as a challenge.

"But mainlanders' strong criticism had forced them to soften their stance."