After the July 21 rainstorms that severely flooded Beijing and claimed numerous lives, former Beijing mayor Guo Jinlong announced a disaster relief charity drive, but few people responded.
After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, many people across China donated money, and people even went to the earthquake zone to volunteer with rescue efforts. The outpouring of help prompted Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to comment that times of disaster strengthen a nation.
But the conduct of Chinese officials in the past four years has given the general public cause to lose its trust in the regime and to show an unwillingness in the last few weeks to donate money to the Beijing disaster relief drive.
Following are the main reasons why people refuse to donate:
1. Beijing is sustained by resources from the entire nation and has become the city with the largest consumption. It has also acquired a sense of arrogance as the nation’s capital. One Beijing official has even proposed a policy to limit non-Beijing residents from living there.
To support Beijing’s economic growth, the 32 counties near Beijing have become the city’s water source and serve as an ecological barrier. They are restricted in their industrial development and decision making power. The areas around Shanghai and Guangzhou have benefited from being close to big cities; only Beijing is surrounded by a “Beijing-Tianjin poverty belt.” This has made people living around Beijing, and even in all of China, feel that they are being used.
2. Officials abuse their power and misappropriate a large portion of the country’s public resources. The regime keeps at least one third of China’s gross domestic product for itself, with more than half of it ending up in officials’ pockets.
Many Chinese are infuriated by the rampant corruption among officials, including the “three public consumption” fees—use of public funds for cars, banquets, and overseas travel.
According to 2010 statistics, the average annual salary of the 50 million civil servants within China’s bureaucracy was 70,400 yuan (US$11,000), over six times the average income of urban residents (11,759 yuan), and more than 20 times the average income in rural areas (3,587 yuan).
3. Many of the natural disasters in China are actually man-made disasters, because the Chinese regime lacks any sense of responsibility. It does not consider the long-term benefits of the people, and officials only act out of their own self-interest.
The tremendous environmental destruction in recent years has made Chinese people come to the realization that the regime is the true culprit.
Many corrupt officials and unethical businesses are working together in collusion, creating projects that pollute the air and the environment. The regime even classifies environmental data as a state secret.
4. Many people have become aware that whenever the authorities initiate a disaster donation campaign, portions of the funds are siphoned off by officials at every level of government, until in the end very little remains for the disaster victims.
The hard-earned money that people donate may end up in officials’ overseas bank accounts, or being spent on luxury cars, designer fashion, jewelry and handbags for mistresses, as was the case in the Guo Meimei scandal (Guo identified herself as a Red Cross official and boasted on her microblog, with pictures, of her luxurious lifestyle).
A report published on Aug. 17, 2009 by Beijing-based Caijing Magazine said: “… an investigation revealed an embarrassing fact about China’s philanthropy system. The vast majority of the 76 billion yuan (US$12 billion) donations from the public [for the Sichuan earthquake victims] have falling into the hands of government departments. There is no report on how the money was spent or the outcome.”
5. For the past 20 years corruption has been rampant in Beijing. The corruption scandal of former Beijing mayor and Politburo member Chen Xitong in the 1980s is minor in comparison with the corruption of today’s Beijing officials.
In 2006, Beijing deputy mayor Liu Zhihua was involved in a major corruption case.
From 2007 to 2011, a total of 2,917 officials in Beijing’s inspection and supervision departments were charged with corruption. Most of their crimes were related to corruption in construction projects, particularly in the bidding process. Those projects obviously included public buildings in the city and its poor underground drainage system.
All of the above mentioned incidents are deeply etched into people’s memories.
All of the above mentioned incidents are deeply etched into people’s memories. So when Mayor Guo Jinlong tried to call for a city-wide fundraising drive, what reason would Beijing residents, who were still reeling from the shock of the rainstorm disaster, have for donating?
To prevent an embarrassing situation, authorities mobilized military personnel and state-owned enterprises, institutions and corporations to donate to the relief fund.
According to a news story on news.163, of the 60 million yuan (US$9.4 million) total donations received, 220,000 yuan were donated by city officials, while five celebrities each gave 100,000 yuan. Most of the rest was donated by state-owned enterprises and institutions.
Thus, it can be said that the July 21 rainstorm disaster marked the end of public charity in China.
He Qinglian is a prominent Chinese author and economist. Currently based in the United States, she authored China’s Pitfalls, about corruption in China’s economic reform of the 1990s, and The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China, which addresses the manipulation and restriction of the press.)
He Qinglian is a prominent Chinese author and economist. Currently based in the U.S., she authored “China’s Pitfalls,” about corruption in China’s economic reform of the 1990s, and “The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China,” which addresses the manipulation and restriction of the press. She regularly writes on contemporary Chinese social and economic issues.
Read the original Chinese article.
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