Chief executive contender Carrie Lam was at the centre of another gaffe on Friday after she gave HK$500 to a panhandler. The elderly woman was later found to have been brought to Hong Kong from the mainland to beg for money against her wishes.
Lam visited Pai Tau Village in Sha Tin on Friday afternoon. She asked the woman several times in Cantonese whether she had a place to live, and then asked whether she was a Hongkonger. But there was no answer.
Then Lam switched to Mandarin to ask her again, and the woman answered she that she was not from Hong Kong. Lam said: “you have had a long day,” and gave her HK$500, wishing her a happy new year.
The woman later told i-Cable news channel that she came to the city from Hubei Province in China two days ago, and that she was brought to Hong Kong even though she did not wish to.
Lam’s campaign office said on Friday night that she was only giving her money out of a good heart after seeing her condition, and that Lam did not foresee that it may cause controversy.
Begging is illegal in Hong Kong. Under the Summary Offenses Ordinance, anyone who begs in public is liable on conviction to a maximum sentence of one year’s imprisonment and a HK$500 fine.
The Security Bureau said last year in a written reply to lawmakers that 96 mainlanders were arrested for begging in public places in the first nine months of 2015, a new record high in five years.
The police at the time called on the public to make a report if they encounter suspected illegal begging or fund-raising activities by “persons who appear to be monks” or other persons.
Carrie Lam has committed several blunders recently. She went to the wrong funeral centre for the service of singer Barbara Fei Ming-yi, appeared to have no knowledge of using an Octopus card and revealed that she had difficulties in buying toilet paper. She was also embroiled in the Hong Kong Palace Museum controversy.