A maverick journalist whistle-blower on Monday accused Li Yapeng, the ex-husband of pop singer superstar Faye Wong, for embezzling donations worth tens of millions yuan from his charity, prompting the actor-turned businessman and his charity to refute the claims.
Guangzhou citizen journalist Zhou Xiaoyun published a long post on his Sina Weibo microblog on Monday, accusing Li’s Smile Angel Foundation of “misallocating at least least 70 million yuan [HK$89 million] worth of charity funds” and “was suspicious of funds embezzlement”.
The Beijing-based charity, founded by Li and Wong in 2006 and named after their daughter who was born with cleft lip, was known for providing free treatments to Chinese children from poor families who are also suffering from such congenital disease.
Referring to the financial records of the charity available to public, Zhou said the charity’s annual expenses over the past few years largely surpassed the costs needed to fund the medical surgeries.
In 2012, for example, he noted that 564 cleft-lip patients benefited from the operations but the total expenses totalled 56 million yuan, according to the financial report. “That will be 99,479 yuan spending on each patient for the operations that other charity in average spending of 5,000 yuan,” Zhou wrote in the post.
The stunning allegation quickly sparked thousands of reposts and eventually prompted the Smile Angel Foundation to issue a statement on its official microblog account within hours, calling Zhou’s allegations “simple and crude”.
In the statement, the foundation said cleft-lip medical treatment only takes up a portion for the expenses. The funds also went to a host of projects and included the financial support of a children’s hospital, it said.
Responding to Zhou’s calculations, the foundation said the average cost in fact was 4,398 yuan per patient if one factors out the expenses spent elsewhere. The cost also covers each patient’s psychological care, nutrition cost and transportation fees, it added.
The response was in line with claims later published by the government-run charity Chinese Red Cross Foundation – an affiliate of Smile Angel – which on Monday night gave a breakdown of Smile’s expenses.
Out of the total of 131 million yuan the Foundation has spent in the past, 41.5 million yuan was used on treating children born with cleft lip; 53 million yuan was used to finance the Beijing-based SmileAngel Children’s Hospital; and the rest was for education and arts projects, charity dinners and academic seminars, it said in a statement.
Using the 41.5 million medical expenses, “the foundation has provided free surgeries to 9,347 cleft-lip children from poor families in the past seven years”, it said.
Li also addressed the allegations personally on Monday afternoon. In a posting on Sina microblog, Li said he welcomed all questions and doubts about his charity and would like to invite Zhou and media to his foundation for a “field trip inspection”. But he also warned that he would not mind bringing the matter to the courts.
Despite the responses, Zhou on Tuesday maintained his requests for “full disclosure of the foundation’s financial statement”, instead of only revealing income and expenditure information.
“Don’t blame me for being too over-demanding … a modern charity organisation is supposed to gain public trust through publicising its financial information,” Zhou said in a post.
“My allegation was not against Li in person. Instead, it was meant to push for institutionalisation of the compulsory exposure of public charities’ financial situation.”