Virus outbreak disrupting pan-dems' fundraising efforts

February 07, 2020 16:54
The coronavirus outbreak has prompted the Democratic Party and the Civic Party to postpone their anniversary celebration and fundraising banquets. Photo: HKEJ

The Wuhan pneumonia outbreak has not only disrupted the work schedule of a number of Legislative Council committees, but may also affect the pan-democrats, particularly the Democratic Party and the Civic Party, in their efforts to raise funds for their campaigns in the upcoming Legco elections.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Democratic Party, which had initially set a celebration and fundraising banquet for March 24.

There had been talk that the party had decided not to invite Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and other principal members of her cabinet to the event.

We were told that the main theme of the banquet would be about the protest movement, and thus the whole event would avoid appearing too jubilant.

However, amid mounting concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, the pan-dems have decided to postpone the celebration party.

Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, chairman of the party’s fundraising committee, revealed to us a few days ago that as the epidemic has shown no signs of relenting, and classes in schools won't resume until March 2 at the soonest, the party leadership has decided to hold the event at a later date.

Yuen told media on another occasion that the banquet won’t be held until June at the earliest, or in November or December when the Legco elections are over, Apple Daily reported.

Over the years, the anniversary banquet has been a major source of revenue for traditional pan-democratic parties.

And since this is an election year, the donations were expected to be higher.

But given the tense political atmosphere as a result of the protest movement, the Democratic Party had set a rather conservative goal for its fundraising this year, HK$4 million, the same amount it managed to raise in 2019.

A Democratic Party source said the widespread panic engendered by the coronavirus outbreak may deal a further blow to its fundraising efforts. But even if that happens, said the source, it won’t have too much impact on the party’s Legco election campaign on the whole.

Over at the Civic Party, vice chairman for internal affairs Bill Lay Yan-pau said they had originally decided to hold their anniversary and fundraising dinner in April, and had already started looking for a suitable venue before the virus crisis blew into town.

If it decides to postpone the dinner, the party would have to consider whether the new date would be too close to the nomination period for the Legco election. That's because the party wants to avoid a situation where authorities would regard the event and related expenditures as part of its election campaign spending.

Lay admits that the party relies mainly on the annual fundraising dinner for revenue. It doesn’t sell raffle tickets, and the contribution of its Legco and District Council members to the party, in the form of a portion of their monthly salaries, is not that high.

Thus, a postponement of the pan-dems' fundraising banquets would have a significant impact on their annual revenues. In a worst-case scenario, they might cancel the events altogether in view of the epidemic, he added.

The latest update is that the Civic Party's executive committee, after a thorough discussion of the issue in a meeting on Tuesday night, decided to postpone the fundraising dinner and give priority to the public health crisis, reported.

Lay told the online news portal that the date for the fundraising event will depend on the coronavirus situation and the social atmosphere. Still, the party hopes to hold the event before the nomination period for the Legco election, i.e., mid-July.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 3

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.