In an interview given to xinhuanet.com in connection with the donation-soliciting project titled "You Were Also Born on That Same Day," Wang Zhenyao, President of China Global Philanthropy Institute and China Philanthropy Research Institute of Beijing Normal University, said that the fact that indecent donation soliciting behavior sometimes occurs is to be expected as China's philanthropic cause develops, but it is very important that importance be attached to protecting the donation receiver's privacy and that the management of such donation-soliciting activities be standardized.
Recently, a philanthropic project titled "Fen Bei Chou" has caused a sensation in some WeChat circles. According to what was stated on the activity's homepage, "Donate one yuan to help TA change his or her fate," the user may donate one yuan to a poor student who was born on that same day as he was by entering his date of birth.
Quite a few users donated one yuan to a child who was born on that same day as they were to show their goodwill; but many others had misgivings about the philanthropic project.
Why did information errors occur?
On December 23, the philanthropic project "Fen Bei Chou" became very hot soon after it was started under the slogan of "Donate one yuan to help TA change his or her fate." By the morning of December 24, the project had collected a total of RMB 2,555,898 in donations.
But an unpleasant incident occurred shortly afterward. Some careful online users discovered that there were discrepancies in some children's data. For example, some children had an impossible date of birth, while some others had two different dates of birth; most of the children even had the identical ideals. According to incomplete statistics, there were at least 6 information errors.
In response to accusations leveled at the "Fen Bei Chou" project, Wang Li, who set it up, said that the project had originally been planned to be launched on the evening of Christmas Day, but to test how well it would be communicated, it came online on a trial basis at 10 p.m. on December 22, and only four friends were invited to donate one yuan each and spread the news to their circles of friends; but to everyone's surprise, the news grew so viral and spread so fast that information errors occurred, besides other problems like an unstable Web page, though the project was still being run on a trial basis; so far, errors have been found in the information about 6 of the children involved.
"We sincerely apologize for any inconveniences and misunderstandings we have caused you due to our failure to check the accuracy of our information about the children in time." Wang Li said that all the donations will be used to cover the living expenses of 2,130 poor students in Zhenxiong County, Yunnan Province, for one year.
Are donation-soliciting projects like this legal?
Contrary to the information errors, some online users paid more attention to the question of whether the donation-soliciting project "You Were Also Born on That Same Day" is legal.
According to China's Charity Law, before a philanthropic organization may openly solicit donations online, it must disclose on a donation-soliciting project information disclosing platform, designated either by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People's Republic of China or any other philanthropic authority duly authorized thereunder, certain information about the philanthropic project to be launched, while it may also optionally disclose such information on any platform set up online in the name of that philanthropic organization, including its portal, official Micro-blog account, official WeChat account, and Mobile client.
The philanthropic project "You Were Also Born on That Same Day" was jointly launched by the "Fen Bei Chou" project team and Aiyou Future Foundation. According to information made available in the public domain, Aiyou Future Foundation was jointly initiated by Ma Huateng, Chairman and CEO of Tencent Holdings Ltd., and Wang Bing, President of Ai You Foundation, as a public foundation registered at the Bureau of Civil Affairs of Shenzhen Municipality. "Fen Bei Chou" is a WeChat account-based product jointly launched by 0fenbei.com and Aiyou Future Foundation.
The project "You Were Also Born on That Same Day" used as its platform the "Fen Bei Chou" WeChat account, which was owned by Beijing Ling Fen Bei Technology Co., Ltd. It is obvious that the platform is not one of the 12 online donation-soliciting project information disclosing platforms designated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People's Republic of China.
The platform is neither listed among the online donation-soliciting project information disclosing platforms designated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, nor is it an official channel of any philanthropic organization duly qualified to engage in public donation-soliciting activities. All these facts go against relevant provisions of China's Charity Law.
Since it violated the law, "The project was doomed to failure from the start." Zhang Lingxiao, Director of Beijing Jingshi Law Firm, believes that the doubt about the project that arose as it became known to the public online indicates that public disclosures are not trusted sometimes, and the lack of conformity to rules and regulations and transparency since the beginning of the project neutralized the creativity of the project and therefore led to its "early demise." In fact, the project even has made people once again doubt the credibility of China's philanthropic cause.
According to Article 11 of the Measures for the Administration of Public Fundraising Platform Services, civil affairs authorities at various levels shall supervise and manage public donation-soliciting project information disclosed by philanthropic organizations through such media as radio, TV and newspapers, or through platforms provided by Internet service providers and telecommunication operators, as well as activities undertaken by such organizations to solicit donations openly. Any philanthropic organization which goes against the law or regulations shall be punished by the civil affairs authority under which it is registered according to law.
On the evening of December 24, the Bureau of Civil Affairs of Shenzhen Municipality declared that it had already set up a team to conduct an inquiry into the donation-soliciting project "You Were Also Born on That Same Day."
Is this form of donation solicitation worth promoting?
The simple, rude way of soliciting donations used in the "You Were Also Born on That Same Day" project also has drawn a lot of criticism from online users.
In carrying out the project, both photos of the children and speeches they made to show their gratitude were used to give publicity to the project and present their information to the public directly.
Although the organizer explicitly declares that "Use of all photos of the children and all other information about them has been authorized by the legal guardians," the way used in carrying out the project has drawn a lot of criticism.
"I absolutely object to letting donation receivers hold a sign to pose for the camera to solicit donations, whether the legal guardian authorizes his ward or his ward agrees to do so. This kind of rude donation-soliciting behavior, jointly sponsored by the government and nongovernmental philanthropic organization with a view to alleviating poverty with precision, proves that the government poverty-alleviating authorities are negligent in letting philanthropic organizations do as they see fit and therefore fail to show great diligence in fulfilling their regulatory duty. The behavior also proves the commonly held opinion that our philanthropic organizations are short-sighted, seek quick success and instant benefits, and are willing to get results by using all possible means." A user published some posts on an online forum and won approval from many other users. "As for participants, what come to my mind are group after group of people who do nothing but stare at their phone screen, paying no attention to those in need but his own comfort and happiness."
Wang Zhenyao, President of China Global Philanthropy Institute and China Philanthropy Research Institute of Beijing Normal University
"This is a typical case of the transformation of donation solicitation in the development of China's philanthropic cause." Wang Zhenyao, President of China Global Philanthropy Institute and China Philanthropy Research Institute of Beijing Normal University, believes that the "Fen Bei Chou" project and the social discussion it triggered vividly reflect the inner conflict in those who want to help those in need. "On the one hand, the donor wants to know to whom his donation has gone and how it will be used; on the other hand, as the society develops, people begin to pay more and more attention to protecting privacy and human dignity."
Wang Zhenyao believes that the fact that indecent donation soliciting behavior sometimes occurs is quite understandable as China's philanthropic cause develops, but it is very important that importance be attached to protecting the donation receiver's privacy and that the management of such donation-soliciting activities be standardized.