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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Committees promoting mutual help in housing estates to be disbanded

Committees promoting mutual help in housing estates to be disbanded

The government plans to disband all mutual aid committees starting in July, sources said, but former district councillors said losing these district bodies might make it even harder for citizens to participate in public affairs.
Mutual Aid Committee was established in the 1970s in private and public housing estates, aiming at promoting a sense of friendliness, mutual help and responsibility among members, and to promote better security, environment and more effective management within the building.

Sources said the government has decided to gradually disband all 1,663 mutual aid committees starting in July as they found relationships within neighborhoods and the mode of building management has already changed.

The government also has a lot of channels to communicate with citizens, “there are opinions within the community” suggesting that the role of mutual aid committee is diminishing, sources added.

But former Wong Tai Sin district councillor Shum Wan-wa questioned if there is political motivation behind the move.

Mutual Aid Committees were dominated by the pro-establishment camp in the past, but the pro-democracy camp has claimed a majority in those committees, therefore “we cannot rule out the government dissolving committees out of political reasons.”

“If [the government] does not even let citizens run for positions in the Mutual Aid Committees or take part in these committees, it will give an impression that the government does not encourage citizens to take part in politics or the management of public affairs, which is extremely not ideal,” Shum said.

Tsuen Wan district council chairman Sumly Chan Yuen-sum said these mutual aid committees are only reflecting estate management advisory committees and organizing fund-raising activities for charitable organizations.

“I cannot see any political element within these committees,” Chan said. “Their every meeting is talking about livelihood matters, why does the government have to dissolve these organizations that are merely reflecting opinions and people’s livelihoods, I really cannot understand.”

But Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker, also Kwun Tong district councillor, Frankie Ngan Man-yu said the functions of those committees have overlapped with district councillors and area committees, therefore their dissolution does not affect citizens much.

There are 1,663 Mutual Aid Committees as of last July, and most of them are in public rental housing estates.

According to a Legislative Council document in 2009, the government offers a quarterly subsidy of HK$1,000 for the committees' electricity charges, telephone bills, office equipment and stationery

through the Home Affairs Department.

A further one-off HK$1,000 subsidy is granted to new committees for setting up their own offices.
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