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Oxfam Hong Kong loses 715 donors worth over HK$1.1 million a year as prostitution scandal rocks charity’s British arm

Aid organisation loses almost HK$100,000 in monthly donations as sexual misconduct allegations hit confidence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 9:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 10:56pm

Oxfam Hong Kong has lost 715 local donors in the past 11 days who collectively gave the organisation more than HK$1.1 million a year, as a prostitution scandal involving seven staff members continues to rock the charity’s British arm.

The number is a marked increase on the figure reported by the charity five days ago, when its local branch disclosed it had lost 480 monthly donors from the city since allegations surfaced in Britain on February 9 that aid workers had used prostitutes in Haiti in 2010.

Most of the donors who terminated their contributions were described as long-term supporters who gave HK$100 to HK$200 every month to the charity, which has been in Hong Kong for 42 years.

“The sexual scandal at Oxfam Great Britain has had a negative impact on Oxfam Hong Kong and seriously affected our supporters’ confidence in us,” said Stephen Tsui, head of communications for Oxfam Hong Kong.

Tsui said it would be difficult to determine the long-term damage from “suddenly losing a large number of regular monthly donors”.

In the 2016-17 financial year Oxfam had a total of 110,000 monthly donors in Hong Kong and Macau who collectively gave HK$156.8 million to the local branch. Their donations accounted for 64.7 per cent of the organisation’s total annual revenue in the two cities.

Oxfam says former Haiti director admitted hiring prostitutes, contradicting his new denials

“What worries us more is that the continuous drop in donations will eventually affect our work in poverty alleviation,” Tsui said.

Oxfam Hong Kong said it was “shocked and saddened by the misdeeds of a small number of employees of Oxfam Great Britain, which had damaged the reputation of the organisation”. It “deeply apologised”.

An internal inquiry by the charity led to Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam’s former country director in Haiti, admitting to paying for sex at his charity-funded residence there, according to a report released on Monday by Oxfam’s British arm.

The report also said three Oxfam employees had physically threatened a witness in the inquiry.

The charity has fired four staff members for gross misconduct and allowed three others, including Van Hauwermeiren, to resign.

Van Hauwermeiren said in a letter published by Belgian media last week that he had not visited any brothels, nightclubs or bars in Haiti.

Ex-Oxfam official denies organising orgies as Haiti opens probe

He said he had entered into sexual relations with an “honourable, mature woman” and did not give her any money. He did however add that he was “deeply ashamed” of the incident.

Britain’s The Times newspaper reported on February 9 that young sex workers had been hired by senior staff in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake there which devastated the poverty-stricken Caribbean country and left 300,000 people dead.

Groups of young prostitutes were invited to sex parties which took place at homes and guest houses paid for by the charity, according to one source who claimed to have seen footage of an orgy with sex workers wearing Oxfam T-shirts.

‘It was like a full-on Caligula orgy’: Oxfam staff hired Haitian prostitutes during 2011 relief effort

Haiti’s foreign minister said last Thursday that his country would open a probe into the scandal.

Oxfam said it had passed the names of the seven men accused of sexual misconduct to relevant authorities and had shared an unredacted version of the inquiry report with the Haitian ambassador in London.

It added that it would give a copy of the report to the Haitian government.

The British government has warned it could cut off funding for the charity, which amounted to about US$44 million last year.

But Oxfam Hong Kong said it did not receive regular funding from the Hong Kong government or any overseas branches.

During the 2016-17 financial year, the Hong Kong government granted Oxfam Hong Kong HK$4.5 million through its Disaster Relief Fund to provide emergency aid to flood victims in Assam, India, and Guizhou and Hunan in China.

Oxfam Hong Kong gave the charity’s British operation HK$34.43 million in the 2016-17 financial year, according to an annual audit report.