• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 7:16pm
NewsHong Kong

Law Reform Commission urges charity register for more transparency

Six-year review by law reform group pulls back from recommending centralised watchdog and calls for register in move towards transparency

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 11:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 4:41am

Hong Kong's 7,500 charities should have to join a government register, with the details open to the public, a six-year review of charity and fundraising law has concluded.

But in its report, released yesterday, the Law Reform Commission stepped back from its controversial recommendation of a centralised charity authority.

The commission also urged the government to standardise applications for fundraising permits and said charities should have to set out details of their finances before selling lottery tickets or raising funds.

The proposals were welcomed by charities as a move towards transparency.

Many had opposed the idea of a centralised authority, fearing it could be used to suppress criticism of the government or undermine religious freedom.

Bernard Chan, chairman of the Law Reform Commission's subcommittee on charity, said compiling a register would be much faster than setting up a watchdog. "Still, it would help increase the transparency of charities and public confidence in them," Chan said.

The Law Reform Commission has been scrutinising charity law since 2007.

It said the changes could be implemented by amending existing legislation, rather than through the creation of a new charity law.

Hong Kong has no formal registration system for charities, which can be incorporated as companies, trusts or societies.

Members of the public have complained that it is difficult to tell whether a fundraising organisation has charitable status.

Under the proposal, charitable organisations which receive public donations or seek taxexempt status will have to register with a specified government department.

They would have to fulfil one of 14 broad charitable goals set by law.

When applying for a fundraising licence from the Social Welfare Department, the Home Affairs Bureau or the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, charities would have to fill in a standardised form, disclosing their objectives, financial accounts and how they planned to use funds collected.

The information should be made available on the government website. Charities which breached the rules would risk being struck off the register and banned from fundraising.

The Council for Social Service hoped the government would implement the recommendations as soon as possible to restore public confidence in charities,

Dominic Yung Yuk-yu, director of the Catholic Social Communications Office, welcomed moves towards transparency and the scrapping of the watchdog.

"The establishment of a commission to co-ordinate all religions had many political implications," he said.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

It is only after 6 years of study that the Commission believes that the community needs more time to discuss the concept of a charity commission and that it calls for charity register in move towards transparency. OMG! – how ‘prudent’ it is to say Mother is a woman!
"The Law Reform Commission has been scrutinising charity law since 2007."
And this is EXACTLY the reason why we do not need another useless and expensive govt funded charity commission. Now that Bernard Chan has come up with recommendations do we need to wait another 6 years before govt does something? Look how long it took for govt to enact a smoking ban in restaurants....something that should have take a month or two took 4 years.
It must be Donald Tsang’s belief in laissez faire in governing that has suppressed the study from forming a conclusion by the Law Reform Commission. It was not unusual for Hong Kong to drag its feet from stepping up to be modernized. The backwater legal culture was practiced especially even in the colonial days – a good example is the decades delay use of DLP fuel for taxis or a law for minimum wage etc.
While the colonial government’s for ease in its ruling by practicing laissez faire which depended on creation and maintenance of privileges for a few Chinese tycoons, Donald Tsang, as a civil servant, is a creation of the colonial culture and such practice just came natural. He and his administration cooked statistical numbers so to claim Hong Kong to be a small government and went unceasingly year after year for the dubious honor of the world’s freest economy that ranked by the ideologically charged Heritage Foundation of US. Donald Tsang did even more than his previous colonial boss. He went to assist the privileged fulltime and unwittingly exposing disadvantageously what he didn’t do for Hong Kong as a Chief Executive.
Dai Muff
My solution is simple. There are so many charity muggers on the streets these days, apparently uncontrolled, and many fraudulent (guys in wheelchairs who stand up after the day shift) that I do not give one single cent to a charity I do not already know. And many of my friends are adopting the same approach. That's what the lack of regulation achieves.
The conclusion came after six years of study. And it still is a recommendation only. It must be an embarassement to Bernard Chan who headed the study.
For me, the conclusion should come much earlier or don't have one if it hasn't make a difference all these years without one.
Or, the recommendation is a breakthrough of colosal significance that only its time taken to accomplish it could tell.
Don't forget, the members of the commission are all busy people.They have to ration their time between all the other government appointments they hold. The miracle is they only took 6 years on a job that should have last 6 months at the most.


SCMP.com Account