Geography

Donations fall 80pc in wake of scandals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 2011, 12:00am

Donations to charitable foundations on the mainland dropped by more than 80 per cent in the wake of a series of scandals at charity groups in the past two months centring on allegations about the misuse of money.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs' China Charity and Donation Information Centre yesterday revealed that donations to charitable groups and foundations dropped from 6.3 billion yuan (HK$7.7 billion) in the three months from March to May to 840 million yuan from June to August 24.

Song Zonghe, a director of the centre, said donors might be giving their money to government departments or individuals instead.

'The general public just does not trust charitable groups now,' he said. 'Some charitable groups are in trouble. It is good that we have spotted the problems and come up with remedial measures, which is the only way to create a better working environment for the NGOs.'

Allegations that donations to charitable foundations have not been well spent emerged after Guo Meimei (pictured), who falsely described herself as a senior staff member of the Red Cross Society of China, posted pictures of her luxury cars and designer handbags on her personal microblog.

Zhang Shiliang, father of a four-year-old leukaemia patient, also threatened to take a fund-raising group affiliated with the Red Cross Society to court for keeping 50,000 yuan of charity-auction funds meant for his daughter's medical bills.

Liu Xuanguo deputy general secretary of the Chinese Red Cross Foundation - which is managed by the Red Cross Society of China - told The Beijing News that donations to the Angel Fund for leukaemia patients totalled just 7,000 yuan between August 1 and 19, compared with a monthly average of 100,000 yuan before the scandal.

'There will definitely be fewer patients we can help, when donations go down,' Liu said, adding it spent 60 million yuan helping 922 patients over the past three months.

A staff member at the Smile Angel Foundation, established by singer and actress Faye Wong and husband Li Yapeng, said the scandals had had an impact on charitable groups. 'But I believe this situation will not last long,' the staff member said.

The China Charity Federation, the mainland's second-largest non-government organisation, has vowed to investigate the whereabouts of solar panels worth 15 million yuan after coming under mounting public pressure. The federation has been accused of issuing donation receipts to a solar panel company even though the panels remained in the donor's warehouse instead of being distributed to mainland schools.

The China Youth Development Foundation, which has teamed up with the Hong Kong-registered World Eminence Chinese Business Association on a project to build schools in Africa, has also found itself at the centre of a storm after allegations the association earned at least 2 billion yuan a year from membership fees. The foundation said the fees were legal and the money was spent administering charity projects.

Critics have demanded that charitable groups be more transparent. But this was difficult, a project manager at an international NGO said, 'because many charitable projects under their names are actually carried out by a third party'.

2m yuan

The amount of tax, in yuan, that Central China Television said the suspicious receipts for 15 million yuan could save the donor'