Chinese Deterred From Donating to Their Country’s Dubious Charity Sector

State watchdog finds that vast majority of nonprofits do not meet international operating standards

  • Share
  • Read Later
Guang Niu / Getty Images

Less than a third of registered charities in China meet basic international standards for transparency and disclosure. That’s according to the China Charity Transparency Report, published by the state-run charity watchdog the China Charity and Donation Information Center last weekend.

The report ranked more than a thousand charities on their information-disclosure practices on a scale from 1 to 100. Just 30% of charities scored higher than 60, while the average score was a paltry 43.

The results will not be surprising to many Chinese, who have largely turned their backs on the country’s leading charities after a string of scandals. Whistle-blowers were already raising allegations of donations being siphoned off by unscrupulous officials in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

(MORE: Postquake-Fundraising Flop Exposes Credibility Crisis at China’s Red Cross)

In 2011, public perceptions of charitable organizations nose-dived when a young woman, Guo Meimei, who claimed to work for the Red Cross Society of China, was found flaunting her ostentatious lifestyle on social media. Her luxury outfits and first-class flights could not possibly have been paid for on an NGO salary. Things got so bad that when the Red Cross Society of China took to microblogging site Sina Weibo earlier this year to raise funds for areas stricken by another earthquake, users responded by leaving hundreds of thousands of identical replies telling the organization to “get lost.”

A separate report published last week by the China Charity and Donation Information Center found that charitable donations in 2012 were a paltry $13.3 billion — just 4% of the total donations collected by charities in the U.S. in the same year.

The most lax donors, according to a list published by luxury magazine Hurun, are China’s superwealthy. The country now has more billionaires than the U.S., but just 3 out of its 10 most wealthy individuals make it onto the list of top 10 donors. Perhaps they’re afraid of where their money might end up.

MORE: Amid China’s Economic Boom, Philanthropy Lags