China’s health authorities jump on ‘ice bucket challenge’ charity bandwagon

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 August, 2014, 1:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 12:49pm

The “ice bucket challenge” – a splashy worldwide charity campaign – has gotten support from China’s national health authorities, who want to raise funds for the care of patients with rare diseases.

The challenge requires a person to tip a bucket of ice water over his or her head, usually after filming a short message of support for a certain cause. The person then nominates someone else to take the challenge.

So far, many public figures, from former US president George W. Bush to Hong Kong commerce chief Greg So, have joined the initiative.

Watch: Hong Kong commerce chief Greg So takes ice bucket challenge to "thaw relations" with Ricky Wong

The National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, an amalgam of the former health ministry and family planning body, said on its microblog account on Wednesday that it sided with the "ice bucket" campaign and called on the public to donate more.

It was responding to a nomination by CCTV presenter Zhang Quanling, who poured ice water over her head then invited her broadcasting company, the entertainment programme host He Jiong, as well as the health commission to take part.

A spokesperson for the pledged to pay, out of his own pocket, to help an initiative seeking to raise funds for the Beijing-based China-Dolls Centre for Rare Disorders.

Mao Qunan, the spokesman, said he donated to the centre, which was founded in 2008 and is the mainland’s main charity focusing on illnesses such as amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative brain disease. Mao did not reveal a figure.

The ice bucket challenge itself was introduced by the US-based ALS Association.

Rare diseases affect just 0.065 to 0.1 per cent of the world population. There is no effective treatment for these illnesses, the health commission said.

At present, the most effective way to prolong the lives of ALS patients is take riluzole tablets, an expensive important drug that is unfortunately not covered by the mainland’s public medical insurance scheme.

More than 4,700 people have made a combined donation of 1.4 million yuan (HK$1.76 million) to the charity since the organisation launched the challenge in China earlier of this week, The Beijing News reports.

Of that total, Wang Sicong, son of tycoon and Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin, gave 1 million yuan.

Wang Yiou, head of China-Dolls Centre, told the newspaper they never thought they could receive funds so quickly. It said the ice bucket campaign raised people’s awareness about rare diseases.

"It’s difficult for us to raise funds,” she said. “Although some people joined the [ice bucket] challenge for fun, most people have come to know ALS and other rare disorders.”