Hong Kong’s charities need effective regulation

A survey has revealed Hong Kong’s caring side. But with fundraising activities by charities overseen by various government departments, the lack of an effective regulatory regime may prevent healthy development of the sector

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 July, 2018, 3:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 July, 2018, 3:26am

Altruism begets happiness is more than just a Chinese saying. It is the very spirit that makes Hong Kong such a generous and caring society.

From donating to charities to giving up seats on public transport, our citizens are always ready to lend a helping hand. This is also reflected in a new survey on the city’s benevolence.

How generous are Hongkongers? Above average, according to survey

But as we give ourselves a pat on the back, we must not forget there is still much room for improvement. The need for a better regulatory regime for charity groups is an example.

According to the poll by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, more than four in five respondents said they had donated to charities in the past year.

Nearly one in two did volunteer work. Taking into account other charitable acts such as signing up for organ donation, giving care to neighbours or colleagues, and providing emotional support to the needy, the city scored 5.2 out of 10 in an altruism index.

Although it is a slight drop from 5.25 in 2016, the score is still above average when compared with other regions.

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The findings may seem surprising to many who fail to see through Hong Kong’s image as a materialistic modern city.

The number of charities and NGOs has been on the increase, with all sorts of fundraising and community outreach programmes held across the city every week.

Public compassion also swells in times of earthquakes and floods, as reflected in the generous amount of donations received by disaster relief groups.

The performance is undoubtedly remarkable, even more so when put against our less-than-ideal regulatory framework on charities.

Currently, fundraising activities are overseen by various government departments. The lack of an effective regulatory regime may prevent healthy development of the sector.

This is not helped when scandals involving abuses are brought to light from time to time.

The problems were flagged by the Law Reform Commission in a report as early as 2011. Regrettably, seven years have passed but the call for a charity law is still getting nowhere.

The survey is a good reminder of the need for more comprehensive regulation. The government should speed up the reform.