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LCQ4: Application for donation submitted by the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association to the Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries
     Following is a question by the Hon James To and a reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):
     It has been reported that the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association (HKACA), established in January last year, was granted a vacant school premises by the Government on June 21 this year for use as its training venue, prevailing over two uniformed groups with long histories in the relevant application process. After being granted the school premises, HKACA submitted on the same day a voluminous proposal comprising as many as 60 pages to the Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries (the Board), applying for a donation of $30 million to subsidise the cost for renovation of the school premises. The application for donation was approved by the Board at its meeting on the 27th of the same month in the form of a special approval. Some members of the public have queried that while the said donation was of an amount as large as $30 million, which was even larger than the total amount of donations, i.e. $21 million, made by the Board in the whole year of 2014, it took the Board only six days after receipt of the application to give its approval, which has raised many eyebrows. Those members of the public have also pointed out that there is a conflict of roles for the Secretary for Home Affairs in the matter of vetting and approving the said donation as he is both the Chairman of the Board and an Honorary Adviser to HKACA. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the details of each donation approved by the Board in the past five years, including the name of the beneficiary organisation, the post title(s) of the government official(s) (if any) who served as honorary adviser(s) to the organisation, the year in which the donation was made, as well as the purpose and amount of the donation;
(2) whether there were urgent reasons for vetting and approving HKACA's donation application; if so, of the details; why the Government made arrangements for the Board to approve the application in the form of a special approval; and
(3) given that HKACA submitted to the Board a detailed proposal to apply for donation on the same day when it was granted the school premises, whether the authorities have investigated if any government official had tipped off HKACA in advance so that it could submit a donation application once it was granted the school premises; if they have, of the details?
     Our reply to the Hon To's question is set out below.
     The Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries (BMCPC), established under the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries Ordinance (Cap 1112) (the Ordinance) and operating on a non-profit-making basis, provides burial lots, niches and ash scattering services for Chinese people in Hong Kong. 
     All along operating on a self-financing basis, BMCPC does not receive any government subsidy.  According to the Ordinance, BMCPC may donate to any charity operating for the benefit of the community of Hong Kong or any sector of that community any moneys vested in it which are or may become surplus.  Upholding the principle of promoting public good, BMCPC has been donating to local non-profit-making organisations for implementation of meaningful initiatives to benefit the community.
     Every year, BMCPC supports non-profit-making organisations to carry out improvement works and procure equipment through the Annual Donation Scheme and to launch activities through the Annual Thematic Donation Scheme.  In general, BMCPC openly invites interested and needy non-profit-making organisations to submit applications according to the respective guides of the two annual schemes, under which the donation ceiling for each works project is usually set at $3 million.
     BMCPC also gives individual considerations to donation applications submitted by non-profit-making organisations outside the two annual schemes.  Unlike applications under the annual schemes, these applications requiring individual considerations are not capped by a pre-set donation ceiling.  BMCPC will examine the details submitted by the applicant, taking into account such factors as feasibility and benefits of the project as well as the applicant's competency in implementing the project; and decide the amount of donation having regard to the format, content and scope of the project and BMCPC's financial situation.
     Since 1991, BMCPC has donated over $950 million to support the implementation of nearly 3 000 charity projects and activities.  The particulars of these projects and the honorary titles held by government officials in recipient organisations are set out at Annex.
     The application submitted by the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association (HKACA) to renovate the vacant school premises in Kowloon Bay as training and activity centre was one of the applications requiring individual considerations of BMCPC outside the annual donation schemes as described in paragraph 5 above.  On June 21, 2016, the BMCPC's secretariat received HKACA's proposal, which indicates that it has obtained HAB's policy support to use the premises as their training and activity centre.  HKACA applied for $30 million from BMCPC for renovation of the premises into a training ground to nurture young people as future leaders who would have the qualities of self-enhancement, self-discipline, self-confidence, commitment and willingness to serve the community.  The proposal is beneficial to local youth development and is in line with the consistent direction of BMCPC to promote public good and charity causes through donations.  The proposal provides detailed and concrete information, with renovation schedule, suggestions for venue uses as well as future activity calendar and operational arrangements.  The proposal also states that BMCPC may send representatives to participate in the steering committee which would monitor the progress of the project.  The information provided shows that the project is viable and can generate social benefits.  As all donation applications are subject to approval by the Board, the secretariat put up HKACA's proposal at the half-yearly general meeting held on June 27 for members' consideration.  At the meeting, members considered the proposal beneficial to local youth development and worth supporting.  They agreed to allocate $30 million from the annual surplus to support the project and asked the secretariat to finalise funding arrangements with the applicant.  The conditions of grant for this project are similar to those for annual charity donations approved by BMCPC.
     In fact, non-profit-making organisations often apply for donations from BMCPC outside the two annual schemes.  BMCPC will consider such applications on their individual merits.  Any non-profit-making organisations may apply direct to BMCPC for donation based on their needs without referral by or advices from government departments.
     The Secretary for Home Affairs (SHA) is the Chairman of BMCPC.  He chairs the meetings of BMCPC to deliberate on various proposals (including the donation application submitted by HKACA) put up by the BMCPC's secretariat for members' consideration.  Despite SHA's capacity as the Honorary Advisor to HKACA, the title is honorary in nature without any concrete function and SHA has never participated in any actual operation of HKACA.  Hence there was no personal interest involved in BMCPC's consideration of the donation application from HKACA and SHA's withdrawal from the meeting was not warranted.  In fact, to support youth initiatives and encourage the development of uniformed groups, SHA has been, upon invitation by various uniformed groups, assuming honorary titles, including the Honorary President of the Hong Kong Road Safety Association, the Honorary Vice President of the Hong Kong Girl Guides Association and a Member of the Advisory Board of the Hong Kong Red Cross.

     Thank you.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Issued at HKT 13:30
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