Amid frenzied preparations for numerous activities marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, the government is drawing flak from lawmakers and ordinary citizens who think the expanded celebration is a waste of public money.
At a press conference on Thursday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said more than 300 activities will be held this year to celebrate the handover, which falls on July 1, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Together, Progress, Opportunity” to foster social cohesion, Cheung said.
Total expenditure for events to be held locally is estimated to reach HK$640 million, he said.
Starting May, the chief executive, along with all department heads and bureau chiefs, will pay visits to as many as 300,000 grassroots families in the 18 districts of the city to give away gifts and red envelopes.
These will coincide with a series of activities aimed at showing to the people that the government cares.
Since these “caring” activities are to be held until September, Cheung said the new government will take over and continue the projects and programs from July 1.
There will also be a series of forums and conferences to be held later this year to consolidate Hong Kong’s strength in its pillar industries. These include the Belt and Road Summit in September and the Asia Cultural Cooperation Forum in November.
Aside from local celebrations, the government also plans to hold more than 200 activities in over 80 cities abroad, with the help of its 17 Economic and Trade Offices, five of which are in the mainland.
They will include official dinner banquets in Berlin, Geneva and Budapest between June and July to promote “Chinese cuisine with Hong Kong characteristics”.
However, a number of activities, as published on the government website, have raised questions on their relevance to the handover anniversary.
These activities include inter-school cross-curricular project competition on climate change, organized by the Education Bureau, sustainable elderly visits, to be led by the Kwai Tsing District Office, and a fire safety competition sponsored by the Kwun Tong District.
Some lawmakers believe these activities are “nothing but window dressing”.
At a special meeting of Legislative Council’s Finance Committee, lawmaker Christopher Cheung Wah-fung of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong said some of the planned activities are clearly unrelated to the anniversary celebration.
For example, the lawmaker said, he couldn’t see how a project in Sha Tin to clean up “three nil” buildings – those without owners’ corporations, residents’ organizations or property management companies – has anything to do with the handover.
Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee said the celebrations are not limited to cultural or sports events, adding that the building cleanup can help spread the message of caring to society.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said some groups are taking advantage of the anniversary celebration to seek government funding.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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