One billion yuan in donations from a billionaire

By He Dan

BEIJING - A Chinese billionaire who donated more than 1 billion yuan (S$187 million) to charity last year won the title of China's top philanthropist on Tuesday.

Cao Dewang, chairman of the Fuyao Group in Fuzhou, capital of East China's Fujian province, was named the biggest donor at the eighth charity awards ceremony, held by the China Association of Social Workers and China Philanthropy Times.

Cao's contribution includes 400 million yuan for building a new library in Fuzhou and 100 million for earthquake relief in Yushu, Qinghai province.

However, his predecessor Chen Guangbiao, who won the title last year, has been involved in a swirling credibility crisis over possible donation fraud.

Chen, 42, president of Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources Co Ltd, was one of the most high-profile philanthropists on the mainland.

A report by Beijing-based China Business Journal on Saturday claimed that some of Chen's donations last year were either fake or questionable.

Two reporters with the journal said they investigated Chen's major charitable activities in 2010 and found that some recipients' names appeared fabricated. For example, the China Philanthropy Times indicated that Chen donated 1 million yuan to the China Foundation of Human Rights for disaster-relief work in Haiti, which was hit by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

However, the reporters claimed no such organization exists and the China Foundation for Human Rights Development, which has a similar name, told China Business Journal it did not receive any donations from Chen in 2010.

Chen denied he had faked the donations.

During an interview by China Central Television on Monday he showed a certificate proving he donated 400,000 yuan to families of eight soldiers of Chinese peacekeepers who lost their lives during the Haiti earthquake through the Jiangsu Provincial Charity Federation.

Wang Xiaoyan, director of the financial department of the Red Cross Society of China, also confirmed that Chen donated 7 million yuan to her organization, including 1 million yuan for victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Deng Guosheng, deputy director of the Non-governmental Organization Research Center at Tsinghua University, said the case will help to make this burgeoning industry more transparent in China.

"It's reasonable for media and the public to raise questions in terms of charitable donations and how the money has been used," Deng said.

Deng also urged charitable organizations to improve their disclosures on donations.

-China Daily/Asia News Network