Scandals put a big dent in donations

Updated: 2011-10-19 07:24

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

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BEIJING - One of the largest Chinese charities dedicated to fighting poverty has collected only about half of the money it expected to so far this year.

On Monday, Liu Wenkui, deputy director of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, said the foundation has raised 150 million yuan ($23.5 million) since the beginning of this year, which is only half of the 300 million yuan it hoped to raise in 2011.

Liu blames the disappointing results on the series of scandals that have hit charity organizations in recent months and the effect they have had on public opinion, according to the Beijing Times.

In June, a young woman named Guo Meimei claimed online that she was the general manager of "Red Cross Commerce" - an organization the Red Cross Society of China says does not exist - and posted pictures of herself with a luxury car and bags. The behavior provoked a public debate over whether the charity had misused donations.

In September, media outlets reported that a branch of the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation in Henan province had embezzled charitable donations and lent large amounts of money to real-estate companies for the construction of luxury apartments.

"The scandals are just the direct cause. The primary reason that our fundraising has been hindered is that people's trust has now hit rock bottom," said Huang Zhen, a law professor at Central University of Finance and Economics.

"For example, media outlets reported that a 2-year-old girl was hit on Oct 13 by vehicles in Foshan, Guangdong province, and 18 people passed by without helping her," Huang said. "Charity means giving money to help those in need. But if people have lost their willingness to give a helping hand, how can you expect them to give?"

"There have not been many natural disasters this year, so we have collected less money than in the past year," said Liu Xuanguo, secretary-general of the Chinese Red Cross Foundation under the Red Cross Society of China.

Liu said the foundation's fundraising was affected by the scandals in August but it had returned to normal by September.

"More than 80 percent of our money comes from business partners, which are not easily affected by the news or scandals after they have formed partnerships with us," Liu explained.

Even so, Huang said more and more donors' money is now going to non-public charity organizations.

"Some people think public organizations are not trustworthy, so rich businessman build foundations to carry out their own charity plans," Liu said. "The number of non-public foundations in existence exceeded the number of public ones this past year."

According to statistics from the China Foundation Center, the country had 1,284 non-public foundations and 1,181 public foundations as of Tuesday.