The crowdfunding platform Shuidichou has become embroiled in controversy once again. On November 30, the video-sharing website known as “Pear Video” (梨视频) published a seven-minute expose’ of the company’s practices. Filmed in secret, the video revealed that promoters providing offline services for Shuidichou intentionally guided the relatives of hospital patients to launch dishonest fundraising drives in order to receive a percentage of the profits. The promoters failed to check, or even concealed, the property status of the people asking for help, filled in the final target for the donations at will and neglected to ascertain the purpose of the donations.
The video immediately aroused public concern, given that Shuidichou is one of China’s major fundraising platforms. On December 1, the official Weibo account of the People’s Daily commented that “this does harm to the people’s kindness and goodwill”, and urged “the platform to publish more facts and the regulatory authorities to intervene in the investigation”. On December 2 the company issued a statement of apology, saying that the management of the company will take corresponding responsibility and suspend offline services in an all-round way.
Lu Xuan, a lawyer and the chairman of Shanghai’s Legal Centre for NGO (上海复恩社会组织法律研究与服务中心), wrote an article on the incident in which he argues that people should understand that Shuidichou is an Internet company, not a charity, and only NGOs have a duty to do charity. However, in this case the company’s behaviour is immoral and goes against the law. He adds that every enterprise must abide by the law, which is the bottom line, after which they can talk about other social responsibilities. At the same time, the incident has made Shuidichou understand what expectations the society has towards it. Lu Xuan argues that if the company can really realise the value of helping others and do a good job in auditing and supervision while developing its business, it will surely receive applause as a socially responsible enterprise.
Professor Jia Xijin, from the School of Public Administration of Tsinghua University, also intervened in the debate with an article in which she argues that the incident mainly involves the authenticity of information and the responsibility to respect a contract, which is a basic responsibility in both the commercial and charity sectors. The issues involved are not only the ethical bottom line, but also the principle of law. All parties should be very sensitive to issues like false information, false evidence, the omission of important information, and the failure of reviewing or regulatory commitments. Examining the management mechanism of the organization, the ethical self-discipline of the alliance of crowdfunding platforms, and the promotion of moral awareness are all measures that will promote improvement in the sector.