Bonus from your heart

Bonus from your heart

In their Facebook campaign, two young activists urge people to spend their government handouts wisely

Terry Wong Chi-ho welcomed the news. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah had announced he would give HK$6,000 to every permanent resident aged 18 and above.

Then Wong thought about it - and soon had second thoughts.

"I was happy at first because students finally can benefit," says Wong, who studies social policy and administration at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "But now I think the money could be spent better - by helping those who really need it."

Wong launched a Facebook page "John sent me HK$6,000, I donate HK$600" with his friend Hau Yung-yung, who studies government and law at the University of Hong Kong. Wong is president of the Hong Kong Youth Activism Network; Hau is president of the Hong Kong 200 Association, a youth organisation under the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups.

The two joined forces to invite teens to donate a tenth of their windfall to charity or give it to people who they think need it more.

The initiative has become a hit among youngsters. More than 1,500 people joined within the first four hours after the Facebook page was set up on March 2.

The number has grown to almost 3,500 people now.

On Facebook, the users are divided in their opinions about whether the government has done the right thing by spending HK$40 billion on the scheme.

Some people have argued the money could have been better spent in other ways. These, they say, include investing in public housing and education or in public facilities.

Others question the wisdom of giving handouts to well-off people.

"I personally disagree with giving the money away needlessly," Wong says. "The policy lacks long-term vision. If poor people have an extra $6,000 to spend over the span of a single year, it is not going to help them much.

"I think the money should be spent on public infrastructure, such as hospitals, to make a real impact in people's lives.

"In any event, now that we will receive a bonus, we should make sure we spend it wisely."

Hau says she will give all her bonus to Unicef to help support needy children.

"The idea behind our Facebook page is to encourage people to spend the money productively. You can donate it to whichever charity you like or share it with a friend who comes from a less-privileged background," Wong says.

Hau says the government's decision to give handouts to citizens may backfire and further erode Hong Kong people's confidence in the administration.

"The government has failed to stand its ground against pressure," she says. "I get the impression that the government is not acting with confidence and that policies are made without much thought going into them."

The government has not yet announced when and how citizens will receive the money, Wong notes. He says he and Hau plan to expand their campaign once the cash bonuses are handed out.



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