Hong Kong Jockey Club ponies up HK$5 billion to boost effectiveness of charity in city, region and further afield

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is to spend HK$5 billion (US$638 million) to set up a charity research institute to promote a culture of philanthropy, with Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu expressing hope the city can become a “major international philanthropic centre”.

A conference organised by the betting giant’s charities trust on Monday heard that the club was committed to boosting charities in mainland China, Asia and other regions, as well as Hong Kong.

Lee told the Philanthropy for Better Cities Forum that the city’s abilities in the charitable field were underlined by the effort by people from all walks of life to deal with the aftermath of the record-breaking rainstorm last week, which caused massive damage and disruption.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has pledged HK$5 billion to help boost the work of charities in Hong Kong and further afield. Photo: Winson Wong

“I was moved by the fact that volunteers, community leaders, civil servants, our district care teams, as well as different NGOs have promptly risen to the challenge, by lending their helping hands to those affected and assisting in the clean up of our streets and roads,” he said.

“The compassion and generosity of our community is heartening and vital to our rise as a charitable hub.

“Benevolence aside, it is also thanks to our world-class financial services sector, we offer an abundance of professional services, tools and resources for philanthropists to channel to social initiatives.”

Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Michael Lee Tze-hau promised the cash after Lee delivered the opening remarks to the conference, held in the West Kowloon Cultural District.

“We aim to establish the Institute of Philanthropy as a dependable source of philanthropic knowledge and to leverage its resources to strengthen the professionalism of funders,” he said.

The fund will have HK$5 billion as seed money.

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Michael Lee said the institute would become a forum where leaders, philanthropists and key stakeholders could exchange ideas and take part in city, regional and global events. Programmes will also be formulated to cultivate professionals in the philanthropic and non-profit sectors.

He added the institute will be expected to collaborate with Hong Kong and international universities, foundations and think tanks to carry out studies on philanthropy.

The two were speaking as a Nobel Prize-winning economist warned that the growth of artificial intelligence would create middle class hardship around the globe.

Abhijit Banerjee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, who shared the 2019 Nobel Prize for economics with two other specialists in the field for their work to alleviate global poverty, and Justin Lin Yifu, the former chief economist at the World Bank, also spoke at the conference.

Banerjee warned that the effects of artificial intelligence on the global socioeconomic structure “is not actually an idea that the political systems have digested” because the technology would eliminate middle-class jobs.

“If you think of middle-class jobs in India, which is business process outsourcing (BPO), or a BPO worker who does medical transcription, their jobs are going to go,” he said.

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“It is going to have a very different effect in inequality than almost anything else that’s happened.

“What’s coming is actually something nobody has really handled. Most countries that have a welfare system have a welfare system for the poor. There’s going to be a bunch of new people who are going to be clobbered.”

The conference was designed to provide a forum for philanthropic, academic, business, social welfare and government leaders to explore the direction of the charitable sector in Asia and other regions for the 21st century.

Michael Lee said the event offered a “unique opportunity” to discuss how to solve the toughest challenges facing cities in the 21st century and how philanthropy could be used for the benefit of society.

More than 1,600 philanthropists, businessmen and social entrepreneurs signed up for the two-day event, which will end on Tuesday.

About 10,000 charities have been set up in Hong Kong, information on tax exemption showed.

The city’s business sector handed over about HK$4.3 billion in donations in the 2020-21 financial year. Individual donors gave a total of HK$7.8 billion over the same period.

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