In November 2016, the Luo Er Incident sparked widespread debate and controversy online after a Shenzhen man used social media to raise a large amount of money for his daughter’s medical treatment. In light of the controversial case, many are asking how the guidelines set forth in last year’s Charity Law will play out in cases like Luo Er’s. The Legal Committee of the National People’s Congress’s Standing Committee announced on February 26th that “according to the guidelines of the Charity Law, individuals are not qualified to publicly fundraise and that we cannot allow those who are fulfilling personal objectives to damage the system all in the name of goodwill.”
The chairman of the committee, Guo Linmao, recently responded to controversy over last year’s Luo Er incident. He pointed out that when the Charity Law was first implemented individual fundraising was a topic of hot discussion, especially since seeking aid on social media and online platforms has become easier in recent years. Of course, citizens have the right to seek aid as individuals, especially those who are going through difficulties. Whether it is seeking aid through government insurance or through charitable organizations, there are many routes to choose from for those seeking financial assistance.
However, Mr. Guo went on the say that “some individuals experiencing difficulties use the internet to seek financial help from society, which is a form of covert fundraising.” Regarding fundraising, the Charity Law is very clear: individuals are not qualified to publicly solicit their own donations. According to Mr. Guo, since the Luo Er incident does not meet the guidelines stated in the law it is in fact illegal and may be subject to punishment.
The committee’s chairman later explained that Chinese charity has a complicated history, having gone through a period of disapproval during China’s wave of leftist thinking, during which charity was viewed as a type of bourgeois activity. Charity slowly came back into Chinese society however after the reform and opening up. The drawing up of the Charity Law was therefore hard-earned. Mr. Guo stressed that the Luo Er incident is harmful to charity in China because it is an example of an individual who took advantage of others’ kindness in order to raise money. He reiterated that charity is rooted in selflessness, gratitude and good-heartedness.
Recently there have been other similar cases of individuals using social media to fundraise. Regarding these, Guo said that the Ministry of Civil Affairs will produce a new set of specific guidelines regarding individual and online fundraising.