Baptist University students have sparked an outcry by asking for free food from a small eatery that uses its spare resources to feed the poor in Sham Shui Po.
Social network users accused the students of exploiting the kindness of siu mei (barbecued meats) store owner Chan Cheuk-ming, after five different societies asked him to provide food for their activities as sponsorship.
The students have since apologised to Chan in person and paid for the food they ordered.
Chan came to their defence, saying: "[They] just didn't think through their actions, they weren't [exploiting kindness] on purpose. They are still learning."
The students were rumbled when Chan told a group of volunteers about the arrangement.
They vented their anger on Facebook and the matter spread through the internet like wildfire over the next 24 hours. It was widely followed up in the media.
"Do you [university students] have a heart? Where are your morals? Why didn't you ask five-star hotels for sponsorship? Instead [you] picked a small eatery with a heart for feeding the poor and the elderly," read one of the many outraged comments on Facebook on Tuesday night.
Others defended the students, saying the public should not be so harsh.
"It's normal for [university] societies to ask for sponsorship from local restaurants ... We live in a highly practical society, in which [their actions] would be seen as resourcefulness," wrote another netizen.
Chan's philanthropy has been widely reported in the local Chinese-language media, bringing him donations to support his charitable work and volunteers.
"We try to give out free food at least four times a week. It involves many different volunteers, and I hope [the students] can join our ranks sometime, too," said Chan.
University vice-chancellor Albert Chan Sun-chi said the students would learn from the event.