It was a telling sign of the times: a Hong Kong industrialist, who for several years had pledged privately to donate $5 million annually to the Community Chest and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, this year suddenly pulled the plug. When asked why, the tycoon replied that 'not a single cent' of his fortune would be directed to Hong Kong charities. From now on, he said, it was all heading to disaster relief funds in the mainland. While this might be an extreme example of changing philanthropic priorities as the handover nears, there are some in Hong Kong who believe that more such cases are yet to come. 'If someone had $10 million to donate to charity, he would most likely direct it all towards China where his name can be recognised instead of donating it to Hong Kong,' said Wayne Leung Wai-yin. 'That is the mood I'm sensing, anyway.' Mr Leung is in a position to know. As the newest inductee in the figurative Hong Kong Charity Hall of Fame - a coterie of fund-raisers known as much for their high profiles as their philanthropic pursuits - Mr Leung has become well-acquainted with the art, and politics, of charity. In early July, Mr Leung was made a member of the board of directors of the Community Chest, arguably one of the most powerful charitable organisations in the territory. At 37, Mr Leung is the youngest in the group. And if his ultimate aspirations are anything to go by, he is perhaps also among the most ambitious. A banker with Credit Suisse by profession, Mr Leung made his debut on the charity scene - in an official capacity anyway - when he began helping with fund-raising efforts in 1992 for glitzy social events linked to the Community Chest and the Prince of Wales Hospital. But party-planning was nothing compared to the role Mr Leung has since assigned himself. In his new position, and over the next few years, on the top of Mr Leung's agenda is to ensure that there is a balance between donations going into China and those staying in Hong Kong; that one doesn't suffer because of the other. 'Instead of just raising funds for local charities I want to go beyond that, to ensure that the needy benefit irrespective of geographical barriers,' he said. Although Hong Kong people have long been ranked among the most generous in the world - a multitude of charitable causes are swiftly and adequately donated to - China-based charities have come to rely on the same bank of people for disaster relief funds. But Mr Leung is hoping to pre-empt a potentially delicate situation: if Hong Kong donors keep giving more and more to causes in China, then who will give to charities in Hong Kong? 'Basically, I believe Hong Kong is suffering. There are far more challenges facing us now as fund-raisers than ever before. Now we have to come up with new skills, different techniques. Fund-raising has become tactical,' he said. He is also trying to prevent it from becoming political. 'Charity is not, and should never be, political. But elements of politics are beginning to factor into it, and this is bound to affect how fund-raisers achieve their goals. 'Politics should be a secondary concern, but it is not. So even if people are donating to China, most will not tell anyone in Hong Kong about it. They don't want to tarnish their image,' he said. Insiders believe that million-dollar donors - the ones who preferred to keep their donations anonymous in Hong Kong - are more inclined to funnel their money to various causes in China in a bid to curry favour with the powers that be. Similarly, a backlash of duty-bound nationalism appears to be affecting sectors of the Hong Kong community, as they return to their roots in China to build hospitals, roads and schools. 'There is much more interest in Chinese charities and while most of it is extremely worthwhile, my concern is the diminished benefits Hong Kong might receive,' he said. Provided major benefactors are still in a position to support Hong Kong charities, nobody loses. But Mr Leung believes that an 'either-or' situation might result in dwindling donations as far as the territory is concerned. The figures, for the moment, would hardly support that fear: the Community Chest has managed to exceed its targets almost every year. As an umbrella organisation for 140 member agencies, the Chest raised more than $180 million last year, and anticipates outdoing that figure this year. But the fund-raising itself is becoming more complicated; people are 'holding back', said Mr Leung, and are increasingly discriminating over where their donations are going. 'In every sense it's becoming more difficult. It's been a tough year and we have to work doubly hard. Some donors delay sending in the money they've pledged, others don't ever send it. 'The people who used to bid $100,000 are now donating $10,000. And the really big donors who used to give millions to us say now the money must go to China for the floods.' Since joining the board of directors on the Community Chest, Mr Leung has made it his aim to begin 'co-ordinating Hong Kong and Chinese charities and working as one'. 'This, ultimately, is the game we should be playing,' he said. Mr Leung has suggested to his charity colleagues that perhaps it is time the face of fund-raising was changed: traditionally associated with $5,000 plates at black-tie dinners and the domain of the very wealthy, Mr Leung believes it is time for charity to be brought back to where it belongs: among Hong Kong's 'real people'. This is so despite the fact that Mr Leung is one of the breed of elite donors himself - his mother is funding the building of a school in Guangdong; US-educated, flamboyant, multi-lingual and a keen sailor, Mr Leung might appear to be more at home at a five-star hotel charity bash than in overseeing a fund-raising event at an orphanage. 'The man who used to donate $5 million a year to Hong Kong charities has stopped. Will that affect us? Naturally. But the only way around it is to find someone - or an entire group - to replace him. 'Charity should no longer just be about the rich and famous, balls and gala dinners. In order for us to be effective, we need to explore the local community, the people that Hong Kong fund-raisers ignore. 'And it's not just the money we are after. People underestimate what they can do for charity in terms of time and volunteer work. It comes down to the same thing.' The cohesive approach, said Mr Leung, should be taken when dealing with the issue of charity in China. He believes there should be 'an amalgamated effort' so Hong Kong-based charities are in a position to connect with their mainland counterparts; donations should be equally spread out depending on need. 'Beijing has a centralised government body which runs its charity boards and liaises with charity chiefs in Hong Kong. But there needs to be much more liaison between the two. In the end, the aim should be the same,' he said.