- A post on the Facebook page “Dot” claims that the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) has issued a notice prohibiting its staff, including security guards and cleaners, from receiving “lucky envelopes.”
- It was found that the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO) stipulates that the HKHS is a public body, therefore its employees are regulated by the POBO and cannot solicit or accept advantages as remuneration for performing their duties.
- A spokesperson from the Property Management Division of the HKHS responded to our inquiry on Feb. 26, 2021, confirming that the HKHS does post notices in its estates and all its staff, service contractors and their employees (including security guards, and staff of cleaning and maintenance contractors) are bound by the POBO. According to the POBO, the above-mentioned persons are not allowed to accept any advantages, including “lucky envelopes” and gifts. It is also emphasized that such notices are posted annually before the Chinese New Year holidays.
- Therefore, the claim is rated as TRUE.
On Feb. 11, 2021, a post on the Facebook page “Dot” stated, “Tomorrow (Feb. 12) is the first day of the Lunar New Year. When the Lunar New Year comes, everybody hopes to receive ‘lucky envelopes.’ Many people will also give ‘lucky envelopes’ to the security guards in their estates. Recently, some netizens make jokes that ‘Security guards are most spirited and diligent in the Chinese New Year period!’ However, there is a notice circulating on the internet that the staff of the HKHS, including security guards and cleaners, are bound by the POBO and are not allowed to accept any advantages, including ‘lucky envelopes’ and gifts.”
The post received 34 comments, 22 shares and 237 likes or “mood responses” till the issuance of this report.
The claim questions: Is it true that the Hong Kong Housing Society has issued a notice prohibiting its staff, including security guards and cleaners, from receiving “red envelopes”?
In the Facebook post, enclosed is a notice issued by the HKHS on Feb. 8, 2021, which matches the content of the prohibition notice in the claim. It also reads, “Please be reminded that the service contractors and their employees (including security guards, and staff of cleaning and maintenance contractors), who are under the contract with the HKHS, are also not permitted to receive any advantages, as stipulated in the contract provisions.”
The interpretation of the POBO can be found on the website of the Independent Commission Against Corruption of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (ICAC). As shown in the “Understanding the Ordinance” section of the website:
“Public servants include prescribed officers and employees of public bodies. Prescribed officers are subject to Sections 3, 4, 5 and 10 of POBO while employees of public bodies (for e.g., power company, bus company, hospital, etc) are subject to Sections 4 and 5:
“Section 3: No prescribed officer is allowed to solicit or accept any advantage without the general or special permission of the Chief Executive.
“Section 4: Any public servant who solicits or accepts any advantage as an inducement to or reward for performing duties shall be guilty of an offence; the offeror of the advantage shall also be guilty of an offence.
“Section 5: Any public servant who solicits or accepts any advantage as an inducement to or reward for giving assistance or using influence in matters relating to a contract shall be guilty of an offence; the offeror of the advantage shall also be guilty of an offence.
“Section 10: Any prescribed officer who maintains a standard of living or has assets not commensurate with his official emoluments shall be guilty of an offence.”
This section also defines “advantages” in the Ordinance:
“‘Advantage’ includes money, gifts, loans, commissions, offices, contracts, services, favours and discharge of liability in whole or in part, but does not include entertainment.
“‘Entertainment’ means the provision of food or drink, for consumption on the occasion when it is provided, and of any other entertainment provided at the same time, for example singing and dancing. Although the acceptance of entertainment does not breach the POBO, individual departments will still stipulate the conditions for staff’s acceptance of entertainment.”
According to Schedule 1 of the POBO (Cap. 201), the HKHS is a public body and therefore its employees are subject to the regulation of the Ordinance and cannot solicit or accept advantages as an inducement or reward for the performance of their duties.
We have sent inquiry to the HKHS in regard to the notice. A spokesperson responded through telephone on Feb. 26, 2021. The spokesperson confirms that the news is true and such notices will be posted in its estates to inform its staff, service contractors, and their employees not to violate the Ordinance every year.
The spokesperson also mentioned that the HKHS has already included such provisions in the contracts with the service contractors. Such notices are posted every year before the Lunar New Year holidays and a verbal reminder is given as well. So far this year, the HKHS has not received any complaints or found any cases of breaches of the Ordinance.
According to the POBO, the HKHS is a public body and therefore its employees are subject to the Ordinance. It is also confirmed by the HKHS that the notice is posted every year in order to remind relevant staff (the HKHS staff, service contractors and their employees, including security guards, staff of cleaning and maintenance contractors) to comply with the Ordinance, i.e., not to receive any advantages including “lucky envelopes” and gifts.
Therefore, the claim is rated as TRUE.