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Public fury over govt charity drive
Global Times | July 25, 2012 00:10
By Liu Meng
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A woman attempts to clear up her devastated house in Beicheying village, Fangshan district Monday after the rainstorm. Photo: CFP
A woman attempts to clear up her devastated house in Beicheying village, Fangshan district Monday after the rainstorm. Photo: CFP

Web users are furious over a charity fund launched by Beijing Municipal Government Monday night to aid storm victims, insisting the move is a way to cover up major failings in the city's infrastructure, which contributed to the severity of the damage.

The fund information released by Beijing Daily was forwarded more than 90,000 times by Sina microbloggers by press time Tuesday. Around 1,000 Web users left comments, most saying they are unwilling to participate in the government scheme.

Su Meng, 25, a resident of Chaoyang district, said that charity donations are not a solution to disaster relief efforts, and the government would be better off considering some of the factors that led to the disaster instead.

"It seems the government is using the fund to divert the public's attention from questioning its responsibility about the destruction," she said.

Su would prefer to personally go to the disaster areas to give food and clothes to the suffering people.

"I don't trust government-led charity drives because I'm not sure whether my donation will get to those who really need it," she said.

Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said now is not the right time for Beijing government to launch the fund.

"Thirty-seven people died in the flood disaster. The first priority for the government is to hold someone accountable for the deaths," said Zhu.

Once the storm warning was released, said Zhu, government employees, such as firefighters, should have put warning signs in places vulnerable to floods, and put pumps there. There should have been traffic  police directing vehicles, he said.

"If the government had made these preparations, there would not have been so many deaths," Zhu noted.

Beijing Municipal Government has earmarked 100 million yuan ($15.66 million) as a relief fund to relocate the affected people, the Beijing Times reported Tuesday.

But even if any accountability is apportioned, the government should use its own relief funds, and not advocate for social donations, said Zhu.

"It doesn't mean people lack compassion if they don't trust a government-led charity fund. They just resort to the ways in which they prefer to donate," he remarked.

The Beijing-Hong Kong-Macao Expressway reopened at 11:50 am Tuesday, one of the main routes to Fangshan district, which bore the brunt of the storm.

In Fangshan district alone, 21,690 people have been displaced and will need urgent help, the Beijing News reported Monday.

Many Web users posted that they planned to drive directly to disaster areas to donate clothes, water and food.

Zhang Lida, a professor at the Central Conservatory of Music said that she and several friends drove together to the village of Beicheying, Fangshan district on Tuesday.

"Before 8 am, I put up a sign in my compound to collect food and clothes from neighbors. Two hours later, my car was completely filled," she said, adding that she will only be reassured by handing the food and water to the affected people herself.

According to the Beijing branch of the Red Cross Society of China, disaster areas are most in need of quilts and emergency lights. It has sent more than 200 family relief boxes to Tongzhou, Fangshan and Mentougou districts, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Liu Jingwen, former deputy secretary-general of the Shenzhen Zhengweining Charity Foundation, said that it is understandable that people show indifference to government charity drives.

"NGO-led charities are more transparent than government ones. Further improving transparency is their way out," he said.

But individuals taking matters into their own hands is not necessarily the way either, said Liu.

"Individuals will not know what people are most in need of, or which areas need help the most," he noted.

Some non-government charity organizations, including a foundation established by the well-known singer Han Hong, are ready to bring relief supplies to disaster areas.

Cheng Liyan, director with the charity work office director under the Civil Affairs Bureau, told the Beijing Youth Daily that Han has called him  to help organize the donations.

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