Charity by fans and donating on behalf of idols a new trend in China

By Zhang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/27 19:42:10

Students take a group picture on Nov. 22, when members of Quiet Time, a fan group for Chinese pop star Jackson Yee, visit their village in Central China's Hunan Province and promise to donate a new campus. Photo: Courtesy of Quiet Time

Fans purchase music albums, go to concerts, collect fashion magazines and crowdfund to promote their idols on billboards. Now Chinese fans are reforming fan culture by doing charity work on behalf of their idols. 

Five days before Chinese pop star Yi Yangqianxi's (Jackson Yee) 18th birthday, his fan group Quiet Time (QT) announced the donation of a primary school to a remote village in Central China's Hunan Province, Yee's hometown, to celebrate his adulthood.

This is the second primary school the group donated for rural children via the China Youth Development Foundation. The first school is completed and will be put into use in the spring term of 2019.

Jiang Jiaxuan, member of QT, told the Global Times on Monday that the idea of donating schools came after Yee starred in a TV drama set in the 1910s about how young people struggled to save the backward nation.

When Jiang travelled in rural Hunan to pick school locations, she realized the necessity of the donation.

"There are tens of thousands of such villages not marked on maps where inadequate schools cannot serve all kids there," Jiang said. After visiting the village and consulting school teachers, QT decided to sponsor 18 children's education and living expenses for 10 years after they leave the village.

Jiang started doing charity after her idol established the Jackson Yee Fund under the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation to raise 1.5 million yuan ($216,000) for a charity program to help more than 2,000 rural "left-behind" children.

Actor Wang Kai's fans have donated 13 roads and one bridge, and 74 libraries in less developed areas in the name of roles Wang had played.

Not all fans or fans groups have enough money to donate a school that is worth 500,000 yuan, but the "significance of fans' charity work is not evaluated according to the amount of money. The point is to involve more people," Hu Bingjie, a 30-year-old fan of Wang, told the Global Times.

Hu has donated over 2,000 yuan since June to Free Lunch for Children, a public fund-raising program administered by the China Social Welfare Foundation to provide free meals to financially-challenged children.

Hu first learned about the program when fans of Wang launched a campaign to raise 81,800 free meals after their idol played a rural man whose life was changed by the reform and opening-up policy.

Celebrity effect

For Jiang, Hu, and millions of fans of singers, dancers, actors and actresses, doing charity starts as a way of promoting their idols to non-fans.

Charity posts with lots of "retweets" and "likes" will create a positive image for an idol among people who does not know about his work, Hu said.

Instead of buying idol-covered magazines and idol-endorsed products, which "usually stay on shelves gathering dust," Hu thought the money is better spent on helping others. 

"Fans seek a sense of belonging through charity. The fan economy is manifesting itself by public welfare instead of consumption," Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Individuals are recognized in a fan's group when they can name a road, a school, or a library. Meanwhile, the fan groups are recognized by the society through such charities, Shi said.

"Yee is like a jump starter that encourages fans to join a cause for public good. Once I started, I am motivated by the happiness of being surrounded by smiling kids in front of new teaching buildings," Jiang said.

Hu found out about the Free Lunch program on Sina Weibo, and donated 400 yuan that can provide 100 meals for children. She then developed the habit of donating 400 yuan every month on payday.

"Fan charity as a model encourages more people to join the cause, and the fans are spontaneous supervisors of the project.

But the public should be cautious about unreasonable 'charity races' between fans of different idols," Shi said, noting economically dependent fans should donate according to their means.

Hu only donates to programs under professional charity organizations.

"Some fans groups are badly organized and the donation account is not publicized, causing risk of ill management and embezzlement," Hu said, noting such scandals will harm the reputation of both the idol and the charity program, not to mention fans who suffer economic losses.

From picking school locations to checking construction works and supervising the money, the donation program is "extremely energy-consuming. But I am responsible for making best use of the donation," Jiang said.

QT chose not to disclose the specific location of the schools they donated for fear that fanatic fans might swarm into the schools, interrupting students' peaceful life.
Newspaper headline: Fanning good works

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