HANDOVER CELEBRATIONS

How are they relevant to Hong Kong? Lawmakers question plans for handover anniversary

Cleaning old buildings, climate change projects and services for the elderly were among the activities that drew criticism

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 2:04pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 1:18pm

Top officials from both the ­outgoing and incoming administrations will visit elderly citizens and underprivileged families in the coming months, as part of a HK$640 million plan to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

Other highlights may include a soccer tournament featuring ­English Premier League teams, a basketball exhibition match ­between US and Chinese stars and a demonstration by the ­national gymnastics squad.

However, lawmakers have questioned the relevance of some of the anniversary activities, which also include cleaning old buildings and school climate change projects.

Revealing details for the first time yesterday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said all principal officials – three secretaries of departments and 13 directors of bureaus – along with outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying, would visit selected families across Hong Kong in the coming months.The visits are likely to be conducted over weekends from May to October, which means top ­officials from both the outgoing administration and the incoming government of chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will be involved.

The “Celebrations for All” project was first announced in December by Lam, Cheung’s predecessor in the No 2 government post.

Cheung said all 18 districts would be covered, with volunteers from 250 social welfare service units and the civil service also taking part.

“Our main aim is to strengthen communication with the public and enhance cohesion among the community,” Cheung said, denying that it was a publicity stunt.

“It’s an opportunity for the government to interact with the public … we are really pragmatic with a heart to care about the underprivileged.”

Apart from museum exhibitions, community events and overseas promotions previously announced, Cheung confirmed that the Hong Kong Football ­Association was in talks with several English clubs for an invitational tournament to be held in late July.

He did not clarify if this was the Premier League Asia Trophy, held every two years in Asian cities, which usually sees three sides from the English top flight and one local team compete in a mini tournament.

Other possibilities include a friendly basketball match in July between big names from the US and China, and a visit by the Chinese gymnastics team in October.

The government will organise more than 320 events this year, while another 300 will be held by private and community groups.

A total of 300,000 elderly and needy households will be targeted in the charm offensive.

But lawmakers attending a special Legislative Council ­Finance Committee meeting yesterday questioned the motives ­behind certain events and their relevance to the anniversary.

Financial services sector lawmaker Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, a pro-establishment figure, took Home Affairs Secretary Lau Kong-wah to task over his bureau alone spending HK$76 million for the event.

“How do the activities relate to the theme of the handover ­celebrations?” Cheung asked.