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]:
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]:
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: 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 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:
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
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:
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.