The government is being urged to draw up a policy to ensure survival of the city's festivals and traditions.
The call came as four events benefited from a HK$2 million donation from the Jockey Club - the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, the Tai O dragon boat water parade, the Tai Hang fire dragon dance and the Yu Lan Ghost Festival held in the Hong Kong Chiu Chow community. In June last year the four festivals were included in China's third national list of intangible cultural heritage.
Each event will receive a donation ranging from HK$240,000 to HK$350,000, with the Tai Hang Residents' Welfare Association being given money for the next three years.
Organisers said the extra funds would help widen promotion of the festivals. 'I always hope the festival can revive the local economy in Tai O. Now we have more money, we will erect more flags to catch the attention of tourists,' said Fan Sum-kee, chairman of the Joint Association of Traditional Dragon Boats in Tai O.
Eric Ho Lai-on, vice-chairman of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival Committee, said they would educate youngsters by introducing a drama to schools showing the history of the bun festival. A carnival was held in Cheung Chau yesterday allowing the public to climb the bun towers.
The chief secretary of the Chiu Chow Chamber of Commerce, Barry Lam Fung-lam, said they would carry out a study looking at the history of the Yu Lan Ghost Festival. The festival is known for helping the poor by giving out rice to the elderly. More than 60 community organisations celebrate the festival.
However, a specialist in intangible cultural heritage said one-off donations would not help protect such heritage unless a comprehensive policy was drawn up.
'Money won't help the continuity if the local people are unwilling to stay or if the communities cannot be retained,' said Liu Tik-sang, a professor of humanities at the University of Science and Technology.
Liu, commissioned by the government to compile the city's first inventory of intangible cultural heritage, said the list would be sent to the government in three months.
Fire Dragon dance commander-in-chief Chan Tak-fai said about a third of older residents living in Tai Hang had already moved out after selling their properties to developers. He plans to organise classes passing on dragon dancing skills to residents moving in.
Director of the leisure department Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee said the government would record the fading traditions but other non-governmental organisations could help protect heritage.