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Hong Kong lawmakers on Wednesday protested against a government plan to donate $13 million to a Chinese earthquake disaster fund, claiming the money would go into the pockets of corrupt officials.
The 6.6-magnitude quake which hit Sichuan province Saturday has left at least 193 dead and more than 12,000 injured, and has also forced the evacuation of some 245,000 people.
But many Hong Kongers object to leader Leung Chun-ying's plan for the city government to donate HK$100 million ($13 million) to a Sichuan provincial government disaster fund.
"To donate money is not to help the victims, but it is to award corrupt officials," pro-democracy lawmaker Raymond Chan told a legislative meeting, which failed to approve the donation after it ran out of time to vote.
Other politicians noted that a school that was rebuilt using a HK$2 million donation after the massive 2008 Sichuan quake was later demolished to make way for a commercial project. The government said Tuesday that the HK$2 million fund was later returned.
"Every time, disasters become a good opportunity for corrupt mainland officials to get rich," legislator Kwok Ka-ki from the Civic Party said.
The meeting, which will resume at a time yet to be fixed, came after an online poll of more than 6,000 people conducted by the South China Morning Post found 91 percent thought the legislature should block the proposed donation.
Hong Kong retains a semi-autonomous status after its return to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997, but there has been growing disquiet over mainland China's hold over the former colony.
Hong Kongers also taken to social networks to voice their concern over the donation, saying the money would be better used if it was donated through established aid groups.
"We can't give one penny! Once the green light is given, then billions will be spilled out like water!" one user wrote on the "Hong Kong Autonomy Movement" Facebook group.