A Survey of the Major Public Welfare Events of 2010

China Development Brief, no.48 (Winter 2010)

中文 English

This article highlights the major public welfare events of 2010.

The term “public welfare” (gongyi) is commonly used these days alongside “charity” or “philanthropy” (cishan) to refer to individuals and organizations acting in the broader public interest, as opposed to those who act in the interests of a particular individual, group or organization. (Drawing a clear line between “the public interest” and private interests is of course difficult. To take one example, a member of an association that opposes abortion can be viewed as working for a narrow, private interest, but that member may feel her efforts to change the abortion laws are advancing a larger public interest.) The government and official media in China appear to use terms like “public welfare” and “public welfare organization” as a preferred alternative to terms drawn from Western discourse such as “nonprofit organization”, “civil society” or NGO. These Western terms imply an independence from official policy and goals that the government may not want to encourage.

The end of 2010 is almost here. Looking back at this year’s public welfare sector, we see many new developments. On the one hand, new forces and faces have entered the “mainstream” of society, even getting the attention of the mainstream media. On the other, some NGOs in grassroots communities and traditional NGO sectors seem to be losing ground.  Meanwhile, this year, relevant government departments have put forward new regulations concerning the public welfare sector. The government’s role in shaping the development of the public welfare sector is worthy of our attention.At the end of 2010, three public welfare media outlets —China Development Brief (CDB), Social Entrepreneur Magazine, and NGO Development and Exchange (NGOCN) —  reviewed the major public events taking place in 2010. They selected 16 major events and conducted an online poll asking their readers to select the events they felt were important.  The respondents came from 28 provinces and autonomous regions (including Hong Kong), as well as from overseas.  Eighty-four percent of the respondents were 20-40 years old, and 42 percent were from Beijing and Guangdong.  The majority worked in the public welfare sector, but some were students, civil servants, researchers, and others working in manufacturing, services and other industries and sectors.

Many readers also recommended other public welfare events: the mudslide disaster relief of Zhouqu; the Hangzhou Home of the Grassroots becoming the first migrant worker NGO in the nation to join the trade union system; the Second Session of the Private Foundation Forum held in October of 2010; the interruption of NGOCN’s internet site; the death of Mr. Liang Congjie, founder of Friends of Nature; the first Social Innovation Award held in Beijing at the end of December of the and many other recommendations. In addition, some events were not listed here because these events happened after the questionnaire was sent out.

Based on the readers’ feedback, the 16 public welfare events are listed below in order of the percentage of votes cast for that event.

1. The “Suspension” of Jet Li’s One Foundation (60.7% voted for this event)

On September 12, in his interview with CCTV’s Face to Face program, Jet Li mentioned that his One Foundation’s collaboration with the Chinese Red Cross was likely to be suspended and that the problem was “much more serious than expected.” His remarks attracted a great deal attention from the media and general public. On September 21, Wang Rupeng, Secretary-General of China’s Red Cross, responded in his personal blog that “the One Foundation was not in danger of being shut down.” Soon afterward, Jet Li apologized to the Red Cross for his remarks.  As a NGO, the One Foundation encountered difficulties when it tried to become public foundation1. The One Foundation’s difficulties revealed the limits of the philanthropy system in China, and became a flashpoint for major media outlets2.

2. New foreign exchange regulations pose an obstacle for NGOs raising overseas funds (51% voted for this event)

On December 25, 2009, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange issued the “Notice on Issues Relating to the Management of Foreign Exchange Donations to Domestic Organizations” to take effect March 1, 2010. This notice may pose a major obstacle for some grassroots NGOs that depend on international donations.

3. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Charity Dinner in China (46.9% voted for this event)

On September 29, the world’s richest men, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, arrived in Beijing to host a “charity dinner” for China’s richest 50 people.  Because they were successful in persuading 40 U.S. billionaires to make a public pledge to donate at least half of their wealth to charity, Gates and Buffett’s China trip was also seen as a banquet to persuade the wealthy in China to donate to charity.  However, the charity dinner hosted by Gates and Buffett did not contain the “donation appeal” as hyped by the media. Even so, the dinner did call attention to the state of charity in China today.

4. The Establishment of the One Foundation’s Public Welfare Research Institute at Beijing Normal University (44.8% voted for this event)

On June 21, the One Foundation’s Public Welfare Research Institute at Beijing Normal University was officially launched. This is the first research institute in China jointly initiated by a university and a nonprofit public welfare organization with the mission of engaging in research, personnel training and advisory services for the public welfare sector. The Institute hired Wang Zhenyao to serve as its president. Mr. Wang was the former director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ Social Welfare and Charity Promotion Bureau, and a long-time government official in charge of China’s charity work.

5. The Controversy over Donations to the Yushu Earthquake Relief in Qinghai (42.8% voted for this event)

On July 7, in conjunction with five ministries, the Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a “Notice on Qinghai Yushu Earthquake Relief Donation Management and Implementation Method.” The notice instructed 15 public foundations to return their donations to a special fund supervised by the Qinghai provincial government, the Qinghai branches of the Chinese Red Cross and China Charity Federation. This policy on “returning funds” caused concerns, confusion, and even outright opposition among more than ten national charitable foundations. This incident touches on the regulation of rights and interests in the charity field.

6. Nearly 60 Chinese Civil Society Organizations Issued a Joint Statement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Tianjin (40% voted for this event)

On October 6, Chinese NGOs organized a panel at the conference calling for every country to face the challenge of climate change and negotiate a fair and effective consensus as soon as possible. They also pointed out that the challenge of climate change is a historical opportunity for change, and urged every country to immediately join a global low-carbon competition. Chinese NGOs also organized more than twenty joint activities at the conference. This was the largest collaboration of Chinese NGOs in the field of climate change. With China as the host country for the conference, the Chinese NGOs showed the world real grassroots action on climate change.

7. The Drought Relief in China’s Southwest Did Not Reproduce the Collective NGO Response Shown in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, Leading to a Discussion of What NGOs Can Achieve. (35.2% voted for this event)

The drought in China’s five southwest provinces first emerged in September of 2009, but it did not arouse public concern until March of 2010. At the time, the media was questioning NGOs about their lack of response to the drought.  But starting in March, the national media and some NGOs and volunteers did go to the drought-stricken areas. Soon after, NGOs turned to the April earthquake in Yushu.  In comparison to the prompt response to the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake, there was no collective action among NGOs in responding to the Southwest drought disaster. This contrast led to a discussion in the NGO sector regarding the limits of NGO actions.

8. The China Foundation Center’s Website Opens (33.1% voted for this event)

On July 8, the China Foundation Center (CFC)’s website, www.foundationcenter.org.cn) was formally launched. The CFC provides basic information, annual reports, and the financial status for 1,858 foundations. The CFC website offers a national platform for information about the financial accounts, project funding, and donations of foundations, and serves as a window through which the public and donors can oversee foundations. The launch of the CFC website signaled a giant step forward in information transparency for China’s charity system.

9. Thirty-four Environmental NGOs Issued Reports on Heavy Metal Pollution by the “IT Brand Supply Chain”, Signaling a Change in NGO Cooperation (32.4% voted for this event)

In April and June, 34 environmental NGOs, including Friends of Nature, Global Village, the Institute for Public Environmental Research, the Darwin Institute for Environmental Studies, issued two research reports in 2010 on “Heavy Metal Pollution in the IT brand Supply Chain”.  Environmental organizations and enterprises went through two rounds of discussion, with a growing number of enterprises responding to questions about heavy metal pollution. This was a successful collaborative effort by grassroots environmental NGOs.

10. Yushu’s Gesang Hua Using the Internet for Fundraising (32.4% voted for this event)

Qinghai’s Gesang Hua Education Assistance Association (青海格桑花教育救助会) raised funds for the Yushu earthquake relief through its website. As of May 31, Gesang Hua received a total of 2.59 million yuan for the relief effort. Of that amount, 860,000 yuan was received through Alipay. The White Paper on “The Status of China’s Internet” issued by the State Council Information Office in early June mentioned:  in the past two years, emerging network services such as blogs, microblogs, and social networking sites have developed rapidly, providing fast and convenient conditions for people to network.  Gesang Hua is one of the many NGOs which use new media technologies for their work platform. Back in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake relief, many NGOs were already using new media tools to raise funds and coordinate relief efforts.  These emerging technologies in the public welfare areas are proving to be conducive to improving work efficiency and transparency.

11. The Yunnan Provincial Government Piloted New Management Regulations for Foreign NGOs (31% voted for this event)

On December 29, 2009, Yunnan province issued “Yunnan Province’s Interim Provisions Regulating Foreign NGO Activities”, effective January 1, 2010. According to the regulations, foreign NGO projects and activities carried out in Yunnan Province must be reported to and registered by the Yunnan Provincial Civil Affairs Department, otherwise these projects shall be deemed illegal. As of August 10, a total of 13 foreign NGO agencies in Yunnan obtained approval and official registration.  There are currently more than 140 foreign NGOs in Yunnan.

12. The 2010 Social Innovation Carnival (30.3% voted for this event)

From August 1 to September 10, the first Social Innovation Fair (SIF) was held in Shanghai. The SIF is both a platform for promoting social innovation and a multi-sectoral networking platform for China’s public welfare undertakings. The main participants were prominent domestic and foreign social entrepreneurs, government departments, academic institutions, civil society organizations and media outlets. It took the form of a fair to create an exciting atmosphere for social innovation and to inspire public interest and participation in the public welfare sector. The SIF also promoted networking and collaboration among public welfare organizations, the government, businesses, and the general public, encouraging new methods, thinking, and experimentations in social innovation.

13. Peking University Issued a Notice Revoking Its Association with the Women’s Law Studies and Services Center (29.7%)

On March 25, Peking University‘s official website issued a revocation notice of the Social Sciences Division. The Peking University School of Law’s Women’s Law Studies and Services Center was one of four research centers revoked3.

14. Strikes at 3 Honda Factories in China (29.7% voted for this event)

Workers at three of Japan’s Honda Motor Company’s factories in China staged a series of strikes starting in May, temporarily stopping production.  The strikers succeeded in winning concessions from the factory in their demand for higher wages. Compared to the previous generation of migrant workers, the new generation have more bargaining power.  Moreover, their organizing occurred without the support of the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions which have not played an active role in Chinese enterprises. When commenting on the Honda strikes, a Guangdong official commented that he would like to see the trade unions play a role in labor-management conflicts. This would not only increase the power of the workers, but also be conducive to resolving conflicts in a more orderly manner and avoiding losses.

15. Cao Dewang, and His Son Cao Hui Donated 200 million RMB to Farmers in Drought-stricken Provinces of Southwest China (28.3% voted for this event)

On May 20, Cao Dewang, Fuyao Group Chairman, and Cao Hui, President of Fuyao Group donated 200 million RMB to drought-stricken farmers in five provinces of Southwest China through the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA).  This is by far the largest one-time personal donation to the public welfare. Cao Dewang made an innovative and demanding arrangement with the CFPA. Each of the 100,000 farming households would receive a 2000 RMB relief fund. Cao Dewang would be in charge of organizing a monitoring committee and the media to monitor the entire process. The committee would randomly sample and survey 10 percent of the households qualified to receive the relief fund. If 1 percent of the randomly surveyed households did not get the promised fund, the CFPA would pay the compensation 30 times of the figure over the stated 1% margin from the randomly surveyed.

16. The Journal “Friends” Stopped Publication (21.4% voted for this event)

Founded in February 1998, the bi-monthly journal “Friends” had a circulation of 15,000, mainly for gay men, AIDS patients, and people in the health, academic research, and media sectors. Beginning this year, the Ford Foundation, which funded “Friends” shifted its focus of work in China to youth sex education, and stopped funding “Friends.” By the end of June, “Friend” had ceased publication. Currently, China has approximately 30 million homosexuals, and yet no policy or law recognizes them. “Friends” was the only journal devoted to the issue of homosexuality.

  1. Editor’s Note: Almost all public foundations in China have some government background. The implication here is that the One Foundation, as a grassroots NGO established by a private citizen, was not able to register as a public foundation because it lacked connections with the government. 

  2. Editor’s Note: For more on this story, see the article “One Foundation and SEE as ‘shell’ foundations” in our special issue. 

  3. Editor’s Note: The Women’s Law Studies and Services Center, one of China’s first legal aid NGOs, was affiliated with the Peking University School of Law since its founding in 1995. That affiliation was largely in name only because the Center was for the most part independent of the School of Law, but it did provide the Center with legal status. After the revocation notice was issued, the Center registered under two names: the Qianqian Law Firm, and the Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Consulting Services Center. 

中国发展简报、《社会创业家》杂志、NGO发展交流网等三家公益媒体在年底对2010年发生的公益要事做了简要回顾和梳理,列出16件公益要事,通过网络向读者征询意见,评选自己心中的公益要事。有来自28个省市自治区(含香港)和国外的热心读者为我们填写了征集问卷和推荐要事的理由。其中20~40岁的读者占84.1%,而北京和广东的读者占了42.06%。这些读者除了大部分来自公益领域外,还有学生、公务员、科研人员,以及来自制造业、服务业等多种行业和领域 。
9月12日,李连杰接受央视“面对面”采访时称壹基金与中国红十字会的合作可能会中断,且问题“意想不到的严重”。一石激起千层浪,壹基金困境再度引发舆论高度关注 。中国红十字会秘书长王汝鹏于9月21日在个人博客中回应称“它应该不存在关闭的问题。”随后李连杰就“壹基金可能面临关闭”的言论给中国红十字会带来的被动而道歉。民间背景的壹基金试图成立公募基金会遇阻,触及慈善体制的天花板,这一事件一时成为各大媒体关注热点,围绕各个层面和角度的解读纷纷出炉。
9月29日,世界顶级富翁沃伦·巴菲特与比尔·盖茨来到北京邀请50位中国富豪参加的一场“慈善晚宴”。因为二人此前在美国成功劝说40名美国亿万富翁公开承诺捐赠自己至少一半的财富,此次盖茨与巴菲特的中国之行,也被解读为劝说中国富豪参与慈善募捐的“鸿门宴”。然而,当晚举行的巴比慈善晚宴并没有出现媒体大肆渲染的“劝捐” 内容,坊间各种猜测虽有点一厢情愿,但是这场晚宴让慈善再次成为一个热点话题,引发了关于中国慈善的制度环境和发展阶段的思考。
10月6日,中国NGO举行边会,要求各国直面气候变化挑战,尽快通过谈判达成一个公正有效的协议。他们同时指出,气候变化挑战正转变成为历史机遇,呼吁各国应立即加入全球低碳竞赛。 中国NGO在本国举行的气候大会上,共组织了二十多场联合活动,是中国NGO在气候变化领域合作规模最大、活动最密集、形式最多样的一次。作为东道国的民间组织, 向世界展示了真正的中国草根气候变化行动。
西南五省旱情最早出现在2009年9月,但直到2010年3月中下旬才引起国人关注。同样,  NGO也一度因为对受灾民众需求不见回应曾遭到媒体质疑。然而,从3月开始,像一觉睡醒那样,全国的媒体、一些NGO和志愿者又猛然间“哗啦哗啦”地赶往旱情重灾区。随即NGO又转向了4月发生的玉树地震。与2008年汶川地震后NGO迅速出动相比,西南抗旱未呈现NGO群像,因此引发了业内关于NGO行动边界的讨论。
 7月8日, 覆盖全国1 858家基金会基本信息、 部分年度报表、 财务信息等相关信息的基金会中心网(www.foundationcenter.org.cn) 启动。该网站旨在建立一个全国性的基金会财务收支及资助项目和捐款信息平台,成为社会公众和捐赠者监督基金会工作、监督捐款使用的窗口。基金会中心网的开通在整个慈善公益系统信息透明方面迈出了一大步。
4月和6月,自然之友、地球村、公众环境研究中心、达尔问环境研究所等34家民间环保组织先后两次发布《2010 IT品牌供应链重金属污染调研报告》,环保组织与企业进行两轮沟通,越来越多的企业针对质询进行了回应。这也是一次本土环保组织明确分工、通力协作的成功尝试。
日本本田汽车公司(Honda Motor Co,HMC)在华多家附属工厂部分工人从5月起陆续发生了一系列的罢工事件,一度导致停产。罢工工人成功地赢得了厂方的让步,工人增加工资的诉求得到回应。和上一代农民工相比,新进入劳动力市场的年轻工人有更多的议价能力。另外,长期以来大部分中国企业的工会长期处于“虚置”状况,广东相关部门官员就这次罢工事件发表看法时说,在劳资双方的博弈中,他尤其希望看到工会能发挥主要作用,这样不仅可增加工人的力量,也利于事件有组织、有规则地进行,从而避免多败俱伤。
5月20日,福耀集团董事长曹德旺、总裁曹晖父子经中国扶贫基金会向西南五省区市旱区贫农捐款2亿元。这是迄今为止中国最大的一次性个人公益捐赠。曹德旺跟中国扶贫基金会进行了一次创新性的合作,跟基金会签订了一个非常苛刻的协议, 要求给10万贫困农户分别发放每户2000元捐助。曹德旺负责组织一个监督委员会和媒体对整个过程进行监督,到时将会随机抽检10%的家庭,如发现超过1%的不合格率,中国扶贫基金会需按照查抽获得的超过1%部分缺损比例的30倍予以赔偿。
《朋友》1998年2月创刊,每期发放1.5万份,为双月刊,主要面向男同性爱群体、艾滋病患者及卫生界、相关学术研究方面、媒体等人士。从今年开始,《朋友》的赞助方福特基金会(Ford Foundation)把在中国的工作重心转向青少年性教育,不再为《朋友》提供资金支持,6月底《朋友》停刊。目前,中国大约有3 000万同性爱者,而对于这个群体,在政策、法律方面一直是空白。据了解,《朋友》是国内唯一一份“学术本位”探讨同性爱现象的健康杂志。

Translated by Zhang Hong

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