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LCQ1: Fund-raising activities

    Following is an oral reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong on fund-raising activities in the Legislative Council today (June 25):


    It has been reported that the earthquake in Sichuan has prompted the people of Hong Kong to donate money generously for relief work, but there may be lawless elements taking advantage of the situation.  It has also been reported that the Police are investigating 12 organisations which have claimed to be raising funds for relief work relating to the earthquake in Sichuan, suspecting that they have carried out unlicensed fund-raising activities.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the progress of investigation into the above 12 cases of suspected unlicensed fund-raising;

(b)  of the number of cases of suspected unlicensed fund-raising into which the authorities conducted investigation in the past three years and, among them, the number of substantiated cases of unlicensed fund-raising, as well as the major types of fund raising activities and the total amount of money involved in such cases; and

(c)  whether the authorities commence investigation into unlicensed fund-raising activities upon receipt of complaints or on their own initiative, and of the effective measures they currently have in place to prevent members of the public from being deceived into donating money to lawless elements?


Madam President,

    Legitimate fund-raising activities are an important source of income for charitable organisations to undertake their services and charitable work.  For this reason, the Administration will facilitate these organisations in conducting their charitable fund-raising activities.  At the same time, the Administration has to safeguard the interests of the donors and ensure that the activities in question do not cause the public undue nuisance and inconvenience.

    At present, the Director of Social Welfare (DSW) may issue Public Subscription Permits (PSPs) under section 4(17)(i) of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228) for any collection of money or sale or exchange for donation of badges, tokens or similar articles for charitable purposes in public places.  Any person who without lawful authority or excuse, organises, provides equipment for, or participates in any of the above activities shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine of $2,000 or imprisonment for three months.  If the Police receives complaints or information on suspected unauthorised fund-raising activities, it will take follow-up action as appropriate.

    My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a)  On the 12 referrals from the Social Welfare Department (SWD) on suspected unauthorised fund-raising activities in public places in relation to the relief of the Sichuan earthquake, based on information available, the Police had conducted follow-up investigation.  The findings are as follows:

* For eight cases, upon investigation it was found that there were no fund-raising activities at the reported locations.

* For two other cases, PSPs had been obtained from DSW for the fund-raising activities concerned.  However, one of the fund-raising organisations was found to be conducting the activity at a location which was outside the PSP・s specification.  The Police had warned the responsible person of the organisation that he should abide by the conditions stipulated in the PSP when organising similar fund-raising activities in future.

* The two remaining cases involved the same fund-raising activity organised by the owners・ committee of an industrial building where a donation box was placed in the lift lobby to raise funds for victims of the Sichuan earthquake.  After investigation, the Police confirmed that the funds raised had been deposited into the bank donation account set up by the Home Affairs Bureau. However, the organiser misinterpreted the definition of :public place; and failed to apply for a PSP from DSW.  The Police had explained to the responsible person of the owners・ committee in question the legal definition of :public place; and reminded him that he must comply with the legal requirement and submit an application to the specified department when organising similar activities in future.

(b)  In 2005 and 2006, the Police successfully prosecuted three persons for conducting unauthorised charitable fund-raising activities in public places.  The three persons were involved in two fund-raising cases, and each of them was fined $1,000.  In these two cases funds were raised respectively by paying visits to shop owners to solicit their donations, and by distributing leaflets and raising funds in public places.  The existing record of the Police does not indicate the amount involved in the two cases. 

    The Police also has no record of the number of reported cases it received regarding unauthorised fund-raising activities in the past three years.

(c)  To protect the public from fraudulent fund-raising activities, we endeavour to enhance the transparency and accountability of charitable fund-raising activities so that the public can make an informed choice, while not stifling these activities by imposing onerous and potentially costly administrative requirements on the fund-raisers.

    More specifically, in granting a PSP under the Summary Offences Ordinance, DSW will, depending on  circumstances, examine the background of the applicant, including whether the applicant organisation or the beneficiary organisation is a recognised charitable institution or trust of a public character under section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance (Cap. 112), the purpose of the event, and whether consent from the relevant venue management has been obtained etc. 

    DSW also specifies in the PSP a number of transparency requirements including the condition that the grantee shall display prominently the PSP at the place where the fund-raising activity is held so as to inform the public that a PSP has been obtained from DSW in accordance with the law.  If the fund-raising activity is not carried out at a fixed location, the volunteers are required to carry and produce copies of the PSP for inspection upon request by any person in the course of solicitation of donations.  The public can also telephone SWD on its hotline at 2343 2255 or visit SWD・s homepage for enquiries on the list of organisations which have obtained PSPs for charitable fund-raising activities.  Through press releases, posters, the electronic media, leaflets, the Internet, publicity materials, etc., SWD will from time to time remind the public of the above ways to identify authorised fund-raising activities.  When issuing PSPs, SWD also reminds the fund-raising organisations in the approval letter that they should arrange for sufficient publicity on the proposed fund-raising activities so that the general public is aware of the organising body and the fund-raising purpose.

    Furthermore, when issuing a PSP, SWD will send a copy to the Police for record, so that the Police can take immediate follow-up actions when there are suspected unauthorised charitable fund-raising activities.  Where SWD receives complaints or information on suspected unauthorised fund-raising activities, it will refer them to the Police for follow-up investigation.  The public can also report to the Police direct on suspected illegal fund-raising activities.

    Since 2004, SWD has also introduced a Reference Guide on Best Practices for Charitable Fund-raising Activities.  The Reference Guide outlines suggested best practices in areas of the donors・ rights, fund-raising practices, financial accountability, etc.  It encourages the charities to disclose their financial information and to minimise the fund-raising costs.  It also serves as a reference for the public in gauging the practice of a charity on fund-raising.  The Reference Guide has been publicised through the media and uploaded on SWD・s website.  It has also been promoted through various channels.

Ends/Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Issued at HKT 16:40


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