The Year of Scandal: Whose Carnival?

China Development Brief, No. 52 (Winter 2011)

中文 English

The issues raised here have been raised in one form or another in a number of past CDB articles. They all address the central question: what should be done to promote the healthy development of the philanthropy, civil society sector in China?

In the year 2011, many memorable events in the public interest sector involved scandals. These events were so numerous that it would be no exaggeration to label 2011 as civil society’s “Year of Scandal”. Reports in the media have shed light on the sector’s dark underbelly. These scandals were not isolated incidents scattered throughout the year, but rather had accumulated, all coming into the light of day around the same time. With each scandal and the public attention that followed, the NGO involved was able to use outside pressure to promote better behavior within the sector. As the dust settled toward the end of the year, the fickleness of the media and internet users took effect. When the carnival surrounding the scandals was over, the public’s attention waned leaving unanswered the question of who will address these problems.

 A Look Back at the Scandals

The debate and heated emotions that followed these  “scandals” are manifestations of a crisis of confidence that exists due to state-sanctioned monopolies and a long-standing lack of transparency in the sector. The biggest scandals of the year were all connected with public foundations1.

The organization most affected by the scandals was the Red Cross Society of China. The Red Cross was at the center of a series of scandals, including the 10,000 RMB tent incident during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake relief effort, the 2011 Shanghai Luwan District Red Cross 10,000 RMB banquet, and finally the “Guo Meimei” scandal in June of 2011. These scandals took the crisis of public confidence in the Red Cross Society of China to new heights. However, if the issues of tents and banquets are a matter of how to best spend the money donated to the organization, then they are not comparable to the Guo Meimei scandal which involved dealings between the Red Cross’ commercial wing and a subordinate company. There are those within the industry who believe that the Red Cross, and other foundations that are intimately involved in commercial activities, are violating their core principles, such as not using the foundation’s brand or intellectual property for commercial gain. Perhaps more dangerously, they are allowing the banner of a charitable organization to be used by those acting for personal gain. To use the name and logo of the Red Cross for commercial profit-making activities raises legitimacy and boundary questions for the organization. The “Guo Meimei incident” once again shows that those who seek profit under the name of a charitable organization will eventually be discovered. Behind a flashy exterior, one will nearly always find a scandal.

Another foundation which became the object of media attention is the Henan Soong Ching Ling Foundation. The charity – which operates in rural China and has attracted a large number of donations in the name of covering medical costs for those unable to afford insurance – at first attracted media attention for the way in which it used its funds to loan money and invest in internet companies, commodities (namely steel), the property market and commercial trading, among other ventures. This public interest organization also commissioned a statue of Soong Ching Ling in a prime location in the city of Zhengzhou as part of a real-estate project involving 400 million RMB in the foundation’s “self-raised funds”. This grand project seems more the work of a large commercial empire than a charitable organization. Speaking at the “Charity Forum” in Shanghai on December 1, the director of the Ministry of Civil Affair’s Department for NGO Management, Sun Weilin, admitted that “individual foundations are keen to engage in commercial activities, and some even show a profit-seeking tendency.”

The Lu Meimei incident trumps these scandals. Dubbed the China-Africa Project Hope, this scandal implicated the World Eminence Chinese Business Association and even the China Youth Development Foundation2. Profit-making conferences and entrepreneur clubs are all commercial operations that run into problems when they try to put on a “charitable” face, thereby arousing public indignation. On November 27, just as chatter on the internet was dying down, CCTV disclosed a new scandal involving social organizations registering offshore to attract donations and avoid inspection and taxes on their operations on the mainland.

As China’s second largest charitable organization, the China Charity Federation (CCF) cannot be overlooked when discussing the year’s scandals3.  The CCF wrote receipts totaling 15 million RMB for a manufacturer of solar panels, a sum which carries a handling charge of 50,000 RMB. The manufacturer made no such donations, however. According to current regulations, only a select number of qualified charitable foundations have tax deductibility on donation receipts4. CCTV reported that for the sum of 15 million RMB, a tax deduction of 2 million RMB could be claimed. The corrupt use of this provision not only leads to the loss of tax income for the state but also damages the image of China’s charitable sector in the eyes of the world.

There are also some events worth mentioning here that have played a “supporting role” during this year of scandal. Notable incidents include: Chen Guangbiao’s charity projects, which gave inaccurate financial reports, and led to suspicions of his projects operating for profit instead of for charity; the Liao Bingxiong Foundation which admitted to financial irregularities and actively publicized their “in-house scandal” in which the cashier used his position to take funds totaling nearly 800,000 RMB; the grassroots virtual NGO Gesanghua which created a stir in August with financial irregularities and falsification of member names; and finally, the resurfacing of an old and large legal case involving the founder of China’s Youth Development Foundation, Xu Yongguang, and Fang Jinyu, a former reporter for Southern Weekend newspaper, relating to foundation investments. There were even the unsubstantiated rumors of a face-to-face meeting between the parties5.

  1. Teaching the Public to “Vote With Their Feet”

According to figures provided by the Zhongmin Charitable Giving Information Center, a GONGO established by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Guo Meimei incident of June 2011 led to a significant drop in charitable donations. From March to May, charitable donations totaled 6.26 billion RMB, while figures for June to August fell to 840 million RMB, a decline of 86.6 percent. Meanwhile, there was no significant drop in donations made to government agencies.  While Ministry officials have said that the Guo Meimei incident would hurt the charitable sector, one thing to note is that mainstream media commentary on these scandals led to a decline in the number of donations for GONGOs, but had little  effect on grassroots NGO fundraising.

On July 7, the Chinese Red Cross made a commitment to the public to become open and transparent. It would open donations up to public scrutiny, and make its financial management more transparent. On July 15, the Ministry of Civil Affairs issued “Guidelines for the Development of the Charitable Sector in China,” as well as a draft for public comments of “Guidelines for Information Disclosure of Public Interest Charitable Donations,” committing to the next step of issuing related laws and regulations. The Ministry, on behalf of the State Council, previously drafted “Opinions of The General Office of the State Council on Accelerating the Development of the Charitable Sector.” The next step will come with the publication of “A Guide for Standards on Enterprise Participation in Charitable Activities”6.

As early as March 2011, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation was among the first to open its books to public scrutiny7. After the Guo Meimei incident in June, the China Foundation Center held a conference on “Transparent Public Interest Supporting a Harmonious Society” to mark its first anniversary. The event highlighted transparency and credibility as the main themes and promoted greater accountability in the foundation sector.

October 30 marked the second anniversary of the establishment of the One Foundation-sponsored NGO Self-Regulation Alliance (also known the Union of Self-Disciplinary Organizations or USDO). The Alliance has grown over the last two years to include 67 public interest organizations, most of them grassroots organizations. On November 18, USDO put forth a model of financial transparency to encourage public interest organizations to make public their financial information.  The hope is that this model can be used by NGOs to promote self-discipline and thereby protect build themselves from the constant questions being asked of the sector.

Whether as practitioners or laymen, reasonably or unreasonably, the public’s questioning of these scandals has undeniably challenged the transparency and credibility of government-run charitable organizations. Xu Yongguang vice-chairperson of the Narada Foundation, pointed out that these various incidents all “involved very different backgrounds, problems, causes and characteristics”. Xu further noted  that the Guo Meimei incident is an example of a failed effort by the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities, while the Henan Soong Ching Ling Foundation scandal was due to poor decision-making. In his words, these highly visible events led to a public debate on “regulating the commercial operations of public interest organizations.” Xu Yongguang attributes the crisis of public trust in government-run charitable organizations to the fact that the charity system does not distinguish GONGOs from grassroots organizations. This view of an industry insider, though, is completely lost_in the wider public debate8.

The development of each public interest organization follows its own logic. Sustainable development cannot mean zero-cost operation completely detached from business interests. Investment and innovation in the public interest should move forward; the trick is to know what is and is not acceptable. Facing such widespread public discussion, public interest organizations cannot afford to miss this opportunity to inform the public and media of the actual working conditions, activities and regulations governing those working in the third sector.  Such action is essential to addressing the broad generalizations critical of the monopolistic and opaque nature of the sector. It would not only improve the environment for the sustainable development of the sector, but also would help avoid misunderstandings from developing in the online community, and enhance the public’s ability to make informed judgments about the challenges facing the public interest sector.

  1. The Power of Accountability

Although 2011 has been named as “the year of scandal”, in fact, incidents in the public interest sector actually began to attract the attention of the mainstream media as early as 2010.

In September 2010 Jet Li appeared on CCTV’s interview program “Face to Face” commenting on the possibility that the Red Cross Society of China might break off its relationship with the One Foundation. Li stated that the issue was “unimaginably severe,” and this instantly became a focus of media attention9. On September 29th, two of the world’s top millionaires, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, came to Beijing to invite 50 Chinese tycoons to attend a Charity Dinner; On July 7th, the Ministry of Civil Affairs in conjunction with five other ministries issued “Implementation Measures on the Use of Donated Funds for the Qinghai Yushu Earthquake Relief Effort” which caused confusion and even opposition among the more than ten national charitable foundations.10.

China’s public interest sector has developed to the point where it is capable of greater accountability. This is particularly true of the private foundations which have developed into a force that can contend with government monopolies, both because of their sheer numbers and their self-awareness. Since the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, grassroots resources in the form of public donations have been growing quickly, increasing the competition between foundations for these resources. Public foundations qualified to engage in disaster relief grew from three to 1511. Public foundations have diversified, and private foundations developed rapidly.  As a result, the old, established foundations face greater challenges12.

More than three years after the Wenchuan earthquake, the charitable and public interest sector have become topics of great public interest.  Social media and microblogging (weibo) have relied on their large community of users to reveal scandal after scandal. Microblogging has become the new, emerging “social power” darling.  The academic Kang Xiaoguang has said of the current climate, “the era of public opinion has arrived”. Mainstream media has continued with follow-ups and in-depth reporting on subjects covered in micro-blogs, which has alleviated public suspicions towards both the internet and traditional media. For these reasons, media involvement in public affairs is a case study in the public “voting with their feet”.

  1. Different Voices on the Gesanghua Case

Of all the scandals that occurred in 2011, only the case of Gesanghua might be considered controversial. The controversy did not come from the public, however, but from within the NGO sector.

The Philanthropy Times published an article entitled “Gesanghua Accused of Faking Membership Numbers and Causing Financial Chaos”. The article used the PRC’s “Regulations for the Management and Registration of Social Organizations” as a platform to ask the following questions: Can local social organizations recruit a large number of members from other regions? Is it acceptable for members to not pay their membership fees? and Whether to ban social organizations that obtain registration permits by falsifying membership lists as a way to get around geographic restrictions on membership13?

The article highlights the problems relating to the Gesanghua case, including shoddy financial accounts; questions of how tolerant managerial structures can be; whether the annual report has to accurately reflect the real conditions of an organization; and how relevant agencies can regulate social organizations which exist virtually on the internet?

It is quite common for civil society organizations to exist in a grey area. Many NGOs are forced to either accept restrictive regulations or exist as an illegal organization. Regarding the Gesanghua financial scandal and the issue of managing membership-based organizations, Lu Ping, the editor of the independent newspaper Women’s Voice, believes that a newly-registered NGO with no full-time professional staff will need to rely on “long distance book-keeping”, so why should mistakes in the account book not be forgiven? She went on to argue that the Philanthropy Times report revealed no indication of any corruption, embezzlement, or abuse of power. What the public really cares about is making good use of its money. With respect to financial transparency, government agencies have failed to establish a model, and indeed they might learn something about financial transparency from NGOs.

A NGOCN forum post pointed out that the media should “have a constructive attitude and a view of the overall system” but those with some understanding of the realities of the public interest sector know that the problems in the Gesanghua case, such as legal status, mismatching accounts, and membership are a common problem facing many NGOs. They are also urgent problems that must be dealt with in order to further the development of civil society. Would it not be more instructive for the public, if the media had the right attitude and vision to aid in the construction and development of civil society organizations and address the issues relating to their regulation and management?

In September, Hong Bo, Gesanghua’s director, responded on her micro-blog account: “I hope that in the future, when friends come to write the history of the development of grassroots civil society that they will write about the vitality, frustration, pain, and helplessness of our organization, and how we confronted these challenges with our blood and tears, and survived. I stand in the future looking back upon today.” Sympathy and understanding of the need to survive illegally, and the helplessness this causes among such organizations, has created sympathy and support for Gesanghua within the third sector.

The media reported in September that the Narada Foundation spent 100,000 RMB to support a third party organization to carry out an assessment of Gesanghua. On December 18, the “Qinghai Gesanghua Educational Assistance Seminar” was held in Beijing. During the discussion, the independent assessment agency Recende officially released the “Qinghai Gesanghua Educational Assistance Organization Assessment Report.” The report was an assessment of Gesanghua’s current organizational structure and administrative capacity. The report was divided into five sections: the organization’s legality and risk associated with the organization; its information disclosure situation and mechanism; its major management expenses; its organizational governance structure; and its management of volunteers. The assessment report will soon be published on relevant websites, including recommendations for Gesanghua’s future development which was discussed at the conference.

The occurrence and discussion of major incidents and even the resort to lawsuits may turn into an opportunity to promote institution building. However, so far no third party has done an independent investigation of the public foundations that were implicated in scandals this year. Although the sector continues to voice different opinions regarding the Gesanghua incident, financial support from the Narada Foundation and Recende’s assessment all serve to make the Gesanghua incident a rare and symbolic case study of how a scandal is managed.

This year’s series of scandals has intensified the crisis of confidence in public interest organizations. It has raised a series of questions, all related to increased transparency and openness and the governmental monopoly on resources. Currently, this social criticism remains just that — criticism. The question of how to resolve the issues brought to light by these scandals remains a matter for further discussion.

  1. Editor’s Note: In other words, these public foundations all happened to be GONGOs that enjoy a privileged position in the philanthropic community because of their close connections with the government and their registration status which allows them to raise funds publicly.  The scandals thus not only implicated the foundations themselves but the official system that allows these foundations to operate with little accountability or transparency. 

  2. Editor’s Note: “Lu Meimei” (or what some call Guo Meimei II) is the name used tongue-in-cheek by netizens to refer to Lu Xingyu, the 24 year old daughter of billionaire Lu Junqing.  Lu Junqing is founder of the World Eminence Chinese Business Association (WECBA) and acting chair of the China-Africa Hope Project which works with the China Youth Development Foundation (a GONGO with close ties to the Communist Youth League that started the well-known Project Hope in China) to build 1000 Project Hope primary schools in Africa.  The Lus, WECBA and the China-Africa Hope Project caught the attention of skeptical netizens and the media in the summer of 2011 when it was revealed that Lu Xingyu was made the executive chairwoman and secretary general of the multibillion dollar Project.  Allegations of nepotism and the status of WECBA and its raising of funds for charity quickly followed. 

  3. Editor’s Note: The CCF is one of the largest GONGOs in the charitable sector and even though it is registered as a social organization and not a foundation, it is one of a very few GONGOs authorized to accept donations in the event of a disaster.  For an in-depth look into the CCF, see an earlier CDB article, “Changes in the China Charity Federation System”. 

  4. Editor’s Note: Currently, registered nonprofits must apply separately to the tax bureau for tax deductibility on donations. 

  5. Editor’s Note: Chen Guangbiao is known for his flamboyant and idiosyncratic approach to giving that involves personally handing out cash to the poor. Gesanghua (or Gesanghua Education’s Aid) is a Qinghai-based NGO registered as a social organization (shetuan) that uses online donations to raise funds for children in western China to complete their schooling. The legal case involving Xu Yongguang goes back to his days with the China Youth Development Foundation and Project Hope.  For one journalist’s expose about this case, see the China Media Project’s posting

  6. Editor’s Note: These new guidelines and regulations have been covered in past Policy Briefs that can be found in the CDB website. 

  7. Editor’s Note: See the CDB article, “The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation Opens Its Account Books”. 

  8. Editor’s Note: Xu’s view is a controversial but understandable one.  He is essentially blaming the system for giving GONGOs a privileged position as so-called “non-governmental, nonprofit, charitable organizations” when they are in fact closely tied to a web of government and commercial interests and are allowed to operate with impunity and little accountability and transparency.  In other words, they enjoy the privileges given to supposedly private, nonprofit organizations, and they enjoy the privileges that come with being part of the official system.  In contrast, real grassroots NGOs that are truly private and nonprofit, but cannot register as nonprofits, enjoy none of these privileges. 

  9. Editor’s Note: The One Foundation was at that time registered as a private foundation and was not allowed to fundraise publicly.  Unable to register as a public fundraising foundation, the One Foundation had established a special fund within the Red Cross that allowed it to engage in public fundraising.  Jet Li was complaining about the bureaucratic difficulties he was having registering as a public foundation. 

  10. Editor’s Note: The measures regarding the Yushu earthquake relief authorized these 10 national public foundations to transfer their donated funds for the earthquake relief to the Qinghai provincial government. 

  11. Editor’s Note: After the earthquake, public donations came flooding in, and the government expanded the number of public foundations that were authorized to fundraise in the event of a disaster. 

  12. Editor’s Note: the author here is suggesting that changes in the foundation sector are putting more pressure on the more established, government-run foundations that engaged in traditional charity work. Private foundations, and even a few public foundations, are putting more emphasis on professionalism and innovation in their approach. 

  13. Editor’s Note: Social organizations registered at the local level are technically supposed to only operate in that locality. Unconstrained by geography, virtual organizations like Gesanghua create challenges to these regulations. 

2011 年很快就过去了,少不了回望这一年公益领域的林林总总,出挑在眼前的是一串的“丑闻”事件,称这一年成为公益领域的“丑闻年”并不为过。今年被媒体以“揭丑”为内容的报道,不是一个个独立发生的丑闻的碰巧扎堆,而是历史的积累在一个偶然的时点上的集中爆发。 在一个个丑闻爆料、公众关注的狂欢中,身在其中的 NGO 可以趁着每次外界的推动,促进行业的发展。一个个爆料尘埃落定的年末,媒体和网民的喜新厌旧病开始发作,狂欢之后,各回各家,留下的持久的制度建设工作,谁来接盘?
“丑闻”影响最大的当属红十字会。 始发于2011 年 6 月的“郭美美炫富”, 2008 年四川地震救灾中被爆出万元帐篷,今年上海卢湾区红十字会的万元餐费,这些连续出现的丑闻引发了高涨的公众质疑,而“郭美美事件”将红十字会信任危机推向近几年来的最高峰。如果说之前的万元帐篷和餐费是一个如何使用善款的问题,后面的红商会与公司的勾连,在性质上则不可同日而语。 一些业内人士认为,红会下属分会及基金会过度涉足商业运作,既违反了红十字标识和知识产权不能被用于商业营利的基本原则,也为打着公益慈善旗号谋私利的人开辟了打擦边球的空间。利用红十字标识和名义,开展商业营利活动,这是红十字会商业化经营的合法性和边界问题,“郭美美事件”背后的逻辑再熟悉不过,以公益的名义谋取利益,或以其他名义谋求利润,炫丽的外表下,总是能发现“丑闻”。
河南宋庆龄基金会一再成为媒体关注的对象。 先是基金会放贷,捐款付息浮出水面,投资房地产、钢铁、计算机网络、商品贸易等诸多领域;另外河南宋基会以“公益医保”名义在农村大量“吸金”。后又被曝出在郑州黄金地段建设一座大型“宋庆龄”雕像,带出了这个公益机构“自筹资金” 4 亿元建设的大型项目。 这么大张旗鼓地在城市投资放贷搞房地产,哪里是一个慈善组织,分明是一个庞大的商业帝国。 12 月 1 日在上海慈善会论坛上,中国民政部民间组织管理局局长孙伟林说:“个别基金会热衷于商业运作、甚至出现了营利倾向。”
被冠之以卢美美事件的中非希望工程项目扯出了世界杰出华商协会,连中国青基会也被牵扯进来。 会议经济、企业家俱乐部都是一种现实的商业经营,同样的问题是,大量的商业经营挂上了慈善的“羊头”,就让普罗大众愤怒了。 11 月 27 日, CCTV 在网络声音渐渐消停之后,再暴曝出海外注册社团在大陆躲避监管而吸金的案例。
作为中国第二大公益组织的中华慈善总会也没有被人遗忘。 中华慈善总会给一家太阳能电池板公司开出价值1 500 万元捐赠品的发票,但该公司实际上并未捐赠。该会为此收取 5 万元手续费。按照现有的法规,慈善机构开具捐赠发票,捐赠者可享受减税待遇。 央视报道称,捐赠者持 1 500 万元发票,可以减免 200 万元税款。而这个开具捐赠发票的资格,只有少数慈善组织可以享受。 利用这些稀缺的公权力谋机构收入而致国家税收流失,为逐利而越界的面目一次次呈现在世人面前。
在这几股强大的舆论质疑中,还有一些事件充当了丑闻年的“配角”。 其中有对陈光标捐赠项目掺水、在家乡假慈善、真商业的质疑;廖冰兄基金会自曝财务丑闻,主动公布一桩“家丑”:该基金会出纳利用职务之便,采取虚构资金用途及做假账的方式,侵吞基金会善款近80 万元。而 8 月民间网络组织格桑花被指财务管理疏漏、会员造假等,对草根组织也是一个不小的震动。而多年前,青基会创办人徐永光和南方周末记者方进玉报道的青基会投资的一桩公案,再次被提起,甚至一度传闻要面对面,但是后被取消。
民政部中民慈善捐助信息中心披露的数据显示, 2011 年 6 月“郭美美事件”发生后,公众通过慈善组织的捐赠大幅降低。当年 3~5 月,慈善组织接收捐赠总额 62.6 亿元,而 6~8 月总额降为 8.4 亿元,降幅 86.6% 。但捐款中流向政府和其他部门的总额并未降低。 民政部官员曾说,再穷追猛打“郭美美事件”会伤害慈善事业。 一个小插曲是,主流媒体对官办 NGO 的评论,导致某些组织的捐款数量下降,但对草根 NGO 筹款影响不大。
7 月 7 日,中国红十字会向社会承诺,要做到“两公开两透明”;即捐赠款物公开,财务管理透明,招标采购公开,分配使用透明。 7 月 15 日,民政部发布了《中国慈善事业发展指导纲要》,后又发布了《公益慈善捐助信息披露指引(征求意见稿)》,承诺下一步还将陆续出台相关法规。民政部已代国务院起草了《国务院办公厅关于加速慈善事业发展的意见》。 下一步还将专门出台《企业参与慈善事业规范指南》。
早在2011 年 3 月,中国扶贫基金会首先晒账单,在 7 月郭美美事件刚刚发生后,基金会中心网在成立一周年之际召开的“透明公益给力和谐社会”会议上,将透明和公信力作为主题,倡议基金会“晒行动”。
10 月 30 日是壹基金发起的 NGO 自律联盟(又称“自律吧”, USDO )成立两周年的纪念日,其成员多为草根组织。两年来,已有 67 家公益组织成为成员。 “自律吧”在 11 月 18 日发布了财务透明模板,推动公益组织财务信息公开。在公益领域问题不断的时期,民间组织拿起了自律修炼的武器。
不论是专业还是外行,理性还是不理性,社会对这些事件的质疑和责问,无不指向“官办”慈善机构的透明度和公信力。只有业内人士,南都基金会副理事长徐永光道出了这几个事件“涉及的麻烦和背景、原因、性质各不相同”。 他认为:“郭美美事件”属于商业红会公益创新的失败案例,河南宋基会的“公益医保”属于决策错位,而这些事件引发了我们对“公益组织商业运作的规则和底线”问题的探讨。徐永光表达了对“官办”慈善机构的不信任,认为官民不分的慈善体制是导致危机的主要原因之一。 但是,这些业内视角的观点,在社会公众的讨论中完全被虚化了。
公益组织发育有其独特的规律和方向,可持续发展不可能零成本运作,少不了和商业沾边。 投资、创新公益等形式一直要做下去,那么底线和边界在什么地方?面对这样的社会大讨论,公益组织何不借此机会,对公益组织的真实环境和运作规律进行一次大众普及,去影响媒体和公众,避免笼统地言说透明和垄断等简单的结论? 这样不但有利于为公益组织的可持续发展创造好的环境,避免网络暴力的误伤,也能增加公众对公益事业的甄别能力。
三、 质疑的力量
被我们冠之以“丑闻年”的2011 年,其实显示公益议题被媒体主流化的过程,这个过程从 2010 年被媒体热炒的几个事件就开始了。
2010 年 9 月李连杰接受央视“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”,这一事件一时成为各大媒体关注热点。 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“慈善晚宴”; 7 月 7 日,民政部会同五部委发布《青海玉树地震抗震救灾捐赠资金管理使用实施办法》,引发了十多家全国性慈善基金会的困惑、担忧,乃至态度明确的反对。
中国公益领域已经成长出可以质疑的力量,尤其是非公募基金会,在数量上和自我意识的觉醒上已成为对抗行政垄断的力量。 2008 年以来,四川地震,民间资源迅速聚集,使得基金会展开了增量资源的争夺。救灾中的公募资格从最初的 3 家增至 15 家。公募基金会已经出现了不同的面貌,而非公募基金会的迅速发育,使得传统老基金会面临更大的挑战。
汶川震后3 年多来,慈善和公益多多少少已经成为街谈巷议的谈资,而新媒体,微博凭强大的聚集和放大声音的功能,抖落出一个又一个的丑闻。微博成为生长中的新 “社会权力”宠儿,学者康晓光将汹涌的公众表达称为“一个舆论时代已真正到来”。 而传统媒体继续跟进和深入的报道,使得公众对于网络新闻和传统媒体产生的微妙的信任和怀疑,因两种媒体的互证而消解。 至此,公益界的公共事务,见证了“用脚投票”的案例。
四、 格桑花的案例中的多种声音
在2011 年的丑闻中,格桑花的案例可能是唯一备受争议的,争议不是来自社会大众,而是民间组织内部。
《公益时报》发表文章“格桑花被指会员名单造假 财务混乱陷发展困境”,以《社团登记管理条例》为标准提问:“地方社团能否大量招募外地会员?会员能不能不缴会费?因为会员入会的地域限制而编造虚假会员信息获取登记注册的社团该不该取缔?”
民间组织在灰色环境中生存,被迫接受一些不合适的法规,甚至不得不“非法性”生存,这是一种普遍的状态。 对格桑花财务混乱现象、对会员制组织的管理问题,独立媒体人、女声报编辑吕频认为,一个新注册的NGO ,没有全职工作人员,靠会计远程记账,录入错误为什么不能原谅?《公益时报》的报道没有指出任何贪污、挪用、滥用行为,公众真正关心的是善款善用。 政府机关本身在财务廉洁公开方面就没有做出表率,(这点反而)应该向 NGO 学习。
NGOCN 论坛有帖子指出,媒体应该“拥有建设性的心态和大局眼光”,但稍微了解公益行业的人就会知道报道中提到格桑花的各种问题,如合法身份、两张皮、会员等等是诸多民间公益组织共同面临的问题,也是促进民间公益发展需要着力去解决的。如果媒体能够有建设和发展公益行业的态度和眼光,去触及民间公益组织的法律法规和管理上的问题,不是将更有意义吗?
9 月,格桑花负责人洪波在其微博上写道:“在未来希望公益界的伙伴们有人来写中国草根公益组织发展史,写我们草根组织的生命力,写我们的挫折痛苦和头破血流,写我们的纠结和无奈,写我们如何绞尽脑汁,写我们如何在夹缝中生存,写我们的血泪故事。站在未来看今天。”基于对夹缝生存、非法生存的同情和相惜,也是对共同身处的外部环境的无奈,业内引发了对格桑花的支持和同情。
9 月有媒体报道,南都公益基金会出资 10 万元支持格桑花请专业第三方机构对机构进行评估。 12 月 18 日,“青海格桑花教育救助会发展研讨会”在京举行。研讨会上,第三方独立评估评估机构瑞森德正式发布了
《青海格桑花教育救助会组织评估报告》。 报告对格桑花的组织身份合规性和风险性、信息披露现状及披露机制、重大行政管理支出、组织治理结构和志愿者管理等 5 个方面进行了评估。评估报告不久将在相关网页发布。 会上,与会者对格桑花的未来发展提出了建议。
重大事件的发生、讨论、调查甚至诉诸法律,都可能成为推动制度建设的契机。 但至今还没有第三方对今年涉及几家公募基金会的事件做出独立的评估,而业内对格桑花事件发出的不同声音、南都基金会的资金支持、瑞森德的评估,构成了格桑花事件处理的一个难得的案例,也会是一个重要的标志。

CDB Editor

Translated by Mark Herron

Reviewed by John Lenhart

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