Starting August 1, individuals in China are prohibited from launching online fundraising campaigns to benefit themselves, according to the Beijing News (in Chinese).
The Ministry of Civil Affairs published two sets of guidelines on the “technical and management specifications” of online fundraising platforms for charitable organizations, which clearly state that only properly registered charitable organizations can solicit donations online. The rules also stipulate that online fundraising platforms must inform users and the public that individual appeals and online assistance cannot be counted as online donations. The new regulations are part of the government’s drive to better monitor charitable fundraising activities and eliminate fraud, as social media platforms and digital payment services make it unprecedentedly convenient for individuals to spread requests for charitable causes or simply ask for money.
Last year, a man from Shenzhen named Luo Er 罗尔 used WeChat to raise 2.7 million yuan ($390,000) to pay for treatment of his daughter’s leukemia. But the seemingly touching story took an unexpected turn when people found out that Luo owns three properties worth more than 1 million yuan ($148,760) and that his daughter’s treatment was covered by health insurance. Quartz reported that the situation was resolved in December when WeChat announced that it would return all the money raised by Luo to donors, after reaching an agreement with Luo and the Shenzhen civil affairs authority.
However, the Chinese public’s trust in charitable organizations has been eroding for years after many scandals such as the Guo Meimei 郭美美 episode, in which a young woman who claimed to work for the Chinese Red Cross showed off her Maserati cars and luxury handbags. Guo ended up confessing to prostitution and gambling charges on state TV, which did little to remove the taint of the scandal: Many Chinese people are still suspicious of nonprofit organizations.
On social media platform Weibo, internet users still appear to have a strong preference for donating money to individuals rather than charitable organizations. One commenter wrote (in Chinese), “I am entitled to donate money to whomever I want. But if I give money to someone through the Chinese Red Cross Society, they will take at least 50 percent of my money.”
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