H.K. legislature approves quake relief for Sichuan

The Hong Kong legislature approved Friday relief funding to southwestern China's Sichuan government for the April 20 earthquake after voting down the proposal last week.

Legislators who support the government proposal said the victims, not corrupt officials, would be punished if the HK$100 million (about $12.9 million) funding was blocked.

Those who oppose donating directly to the Sichuan provincial government said they doubt the funding will go to the needy and are worried that corrupt officials will pocket it.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit the prefecture-level city of Yaan left 193 people dead, with 25 people missing and 12,211 injured, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

Hong Kong last year withdrew a HK$2 million relief funding earmarked for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake for a newly built secondary school in Mianyang City. The Mianyang Zijing Minzu High School was torn down in less than two years and turned into a private property project.

"The rainy season is coming and it will raise the risk of consequential geographical disasters," Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam said. "I hope we stop casting doubt at the mainland government's dedication and work towards helping the victims at this very moment."

The legislature voted down the proposal last week, prompting mainland mouthpieces to publish commentaries critical of the move.

The government also approved five grants from the Disaster Relief Fund totaling HK$21.7 million to five nongovernmental organizations to undertake relief projects.