Rules for Hong Kong charities must be tightened to maintain public faith

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 5:06pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 10:05pm

I share the concern of the Audit Commission over legal loopholes in the government’s rules on charities (“Regulation of charities full of holes, auditor says”, April 27).

The problem is the absence of a centralised charity law. The commission’s report has revealed that some organisations have been allowed to maintain their tax-exempt status “and free land even after conducting non-charitable” activities.

One organisation kept that status even though it had “never operated as a charity since it became one 12 years ago”. I value the important role of genuine charities in our society so I find these loopholes to be totally unacceptable.

It is clear from the report that these organisations are breaching existing regulations, so why is no action being taken? Clearly, the government should be reviewing these groups on a more regular basis. Also, it should seek compensation for those bodies which ceased to act as charities but were still exempt from paying tax.

Charities and charitable acts should be encouraged in our community, but they are not helped by organisations which take advantage of loopholes. I am also concerned about some fundraising activities I see in the street, with disabled or elderly people holding boxes, which have raised my suspicions.

It is also worrying when a charity has been seen to be spending an inordinate amount of money on administrative expenses.

Tighter regulation and changes in the law are needed, given that the charity sector has seen rapid growth in recent years. A specific government department or bureau must be given the task of overseeing the registration of all charities in Hong Kong.

As a Hong Kong citizen, my trust has been undermined in charitable organisations, because of a lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to their charitable projects.

This leaves citizens with a sense of disappointment and that includes the thousands of kind-hearted donors who must be concerned when they realise that some of their contributions went to fund a group that is now a non-charitable organisation.

It is high time that this problem was rectified or more people will become disillusioned with the local charity sector.

Kathleen Hau, Tseung Kwan O