Actress coughs up thousands after earthquake donation allegations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am

Actress Zhang Ziyi was forced to contribute 160,000 yuan (HK$182,000) for Sichuan earthquake relief after outraged mainlanders criticised her for overstating her donation and allegedly misappropriating money raised for victims.

Zhang's agent apologised publicly, saying the actress had sent the remaining sum to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation two weeks after mainland media reported her shortfall on a promised 1 million yuan donation two years ago.

The agent's statement did not explain the US$500,000 Zhang raised for quake victims at the Cannes Film Festival in France in 2008. None of the country's major charity funds received the donations, prompting some mainland reports to claim the money had gone directly into Zhang's bank account.

Zhang's agent Ji Lingling said: 'It's my carelessness as a manager. Two accountants responsible for remitting the remaining sum [of Zhang's personal donation] thought the other side had already sent the rest by mistake.'

Last week, the foundation announced it had received only 840,000 yuan from Zhang, who insisted she had contributed 1 million yuan and condemned reports that tried to discredit her. The foundation confirmed it had received Zhang's new contribution on Monday, saying her previous donation went to a reconstructed deaf-mute school in Qionglai , Sichuan. But the actress has still not explained the whereabouts of the US$500,000 she raised.

Ji said Zhang's foundation had received only US$50,000 so far, and the other donors either cancelled or never followed up on their oral commitments. 'Wendi Deng Murdoch agreed to donate US$100,000 to the foundation but later contributed the money to Sichuan directly,' Ji told the Southern Metropolis News. 'Donors of the remaining US$350,000 said they would contribute as soon as the [Zhang Ziyi] Foundation found suitable charity projects to help the quake victims.'

Asked about the failure to secure any projects almost two years after the magnitude-8 earthquake in which about 88,000 people were killed, Ji said the foundation decided to give financial support to the international NGO Care for Children for its continuing relief work in Sichuan.

'The Zhang Ziyi Foundation has committed to donate US$400,000 towards the construction of the Deyang Children's Centre,' the NGO said on Monday. 'The donation will be transferred to Care for Children within three weeks of the ground-breaking ceremony.'

Zhang is not the first public figure whose Sichuan earthquake donations have come up short. Mainland writer Yu Qiuyu was heavily criticised after failing to prove he had donated 200,000 yuan to quake relief as pledged. Actresses Zhao Wei and Fan Bingbing and pop singer Na Ying have also been affected by fallout from Zhang's donation scandal. They had to provide donation receipts to prove they donated as much as they had claimed.