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China: Zero Donations to Government Education Development Fund

Guizhou is one of the poorest provinces in China and more than 50% of the students in elementary education are living in poverty. The problem of children dropping out of the education system has been very serious.

Many private charities have projects that provide scholarships and sponsorship to poor students in Guizhou. Local government authorities also also make regular calls for donation to their governmental funds. Recently, however, the Guizhou Education Bureau's fundraising campaign for its Education Development Fund has received zero response.

According to a local report [zh] on 21 October 2012, the fund was established in June 2011 with aims of teacher training, curriculum development and overseas exchanges. The Education Bureau claims that all the donations will be transparent and won't be used for administrative costs. However, out of the 1000 plus letters sent out to local business leaders and celebrities, none has responded to the donation call.

The official blames the Guo Meimei and China Red Cross scandal for their failure. Indeed, the issue at stake concerns people's distrust in the government-led charity work which quite often takes donations as extra taxation. Lao Hai from my1510 explains how the “governmental charity practice” works out in China [zh]:

Zero donation to the Guizhou education development fund. Image from my1510.cn

贵州有多少希望工程?希望工程之外,有没有必要再开辟一条基金会支教的第二路线?教育慈善机构全国已有很多,贵州有没有必要再多此一举?有没有必要在自己的小省之内再创建一个必然跟全国性的教育慈善机构有所冲突的地域性基金会?这些事情没有周全考虑好,问题自然就随之而来。如果都是三思才后行的,就不会遭遇现在这般极其糟糕的“零捐助”。

邀捐到底是怎么回事?说穿了,就是有个性且想作为的领导,利用部门职权和个人魅力号召能够管辖和可以控制的财团和富豪捐助当地财政一时无法挪腾出来的短缺资金,以解决政府急欲解决的某些棘手的社会性问题。一般来讲,邀捐的动机无可厚非,就是手段略存非议。说它合法嘛,它却极具道德杀伤力,有点强人所难的东西在里边。不捐则担心今后到这邀捐部门去办事要吃卡掐拿要,利索不了。捐嘛还真是有点不太乐意,谁不疼惜自己的血汗钱?而且,一般邀捐的款额都不是小数目,动辄几十万起算。说它非法嘛,它却不受目前任何法律限制,天生就有御法之术。

How many Hope Projects are currently run in Guizhou? Do we really need extra funding to support education development there? There are so many education charities all over the country, do we need a local foundation that competes with the national charities? Without addressing the above questions, problems follow. If they had reviewed the existing charity work, they wouldn't face such an awful “zero donation” situation.

What is the nature of of the donation invitation? Some leaders are making use of their power in the government to squeeze money from the business sector and local celebrities, who are under their jurisdiction, to solve their temporary cash flow problem for tackling existing social problems. The intention is usually justified but the means is questionable. Right, it is legal, yet those who refuse to donate will receive moral pressure and they may also worry that their relation with local authorities could be ruined. Usually the donation amount requested is quite high, up to hundreds of thousand RMB (equivalent to tens of thousands of USD), people are unwilling to give their hard earned money. No existing law restricts such kind of governmental behavior, well, of course they know how the laws are written…

The role of the government has obviously stirred up a lot of distrust. Below is a selection of criticisms from micro-bloggers [zh]:

广东西关二少:没方法改变了,政府的慈善机构已经彻底伤了国人的心、寒了国人的心。以后捐助这事只能交给有第三方监控的民间慈善机构跟进,否则,遭遇零捐助的尴尬事将继续下去。

Guangdong Kuanxi Ershao People won't change their mind anymore. The governmental charity groups have broken and cooled down our hearts. In the future, fund raising has to be conducted and monitored by civil charity, or such kind of embarrassment will keep happening.

NNDSN:为什么?首先问自己是不是真的是为了教育发展。把贵州慈善事业做的好的宣传一下,把做过的事列举一下,你们资助了谁??要资助的也是你们的亲戚!真正需要的人没有得到资助

NNDSN: Why? Ask yourself if this is really for the development of education. Who have you been sponsoring, can you give a summary of your charity work in the past? The fund is channelled to your extended family! Those in need get nothing.

Antonio_龍:对于贵州省教育发展基金会“零捐助”事件,我觉得根本没有必要广泛宣传,“零捐助”不代表群众无爱心,而是对这个社会的不放心,5.12捐款还不是被贪了,面对如此重大的灾难,相关领导都贪的面不改色,这让我们纷纷质疑,我们捐的钱都哪去了?捐钱也无法改变孩子的现状,只会让贪污者的腰包更鼓!

Antonio Lung The zero donation incident of the Guizhou education development fund is of no great significance. Zero donation does not mean that people don't care. They just can't trust this society anymore. The donation for May 12 [The Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008] had been misappropriated by corrupted officials. How could they take the disaster relief money without blushing? We have been questioning where all our money has gone? Donation can't help the children, the money will just fill the corrupted officials’ pockets.

Some also extend their distrust to the unjust and arbitrary allocation of government's resources:

蓝博一客:公众的不满还在于:一方面财政性教育投入不足,1993年承诺到上世纪末教育投入占GDP的比例4%,而到了2011年也只有3.83%左右;不及发达国家的5.1%

Blue blog guest: Public discontent comes from the government's education investment lagging behind. In 1993, the government promised that by the end of the 20th century, education investment would be up to 4%, but in 2011, the investment was just 3.83%, far below the 5.1% of the developed country

坐隐玄幽:贵州教育发展基金遭遇“零捐助”。都拿去支援非洲和欧债危机了,哪还管自己人!

Steadily seated in the dark: Guizhou education development fund received zero donation. All our money has been spent to aid African countries and helped the European debt crisis, no one care about our own people.

Legolas points out that charity work should be done in open platforms:

尼玛,我要是想为教育发展尽力,完全可以自己做,我只需要的是一个提供真实信息的平台而已,所谓的基金会完全不会被我信任

We can help the development of education by our own efforts. What we need is a platform where there is trustworthy information. I won't trust any foundation.

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