The launcher and manager of the country’s most prominent charity program, Project Hope, which helps rural children continue schooling, denied Thursday it embezzled funds for a non-governmental education initiative in Africa.
The announcement by the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF) was its first response to public criticism on the Africa project, as some Internet users raised doubts overseas programs might lower the priority of domestic ones.
The project in Africa began in December 2010 aiming to raise 1.5 billion yuan ($234 million) over 10 years to build 1,000 schools in Africa, according to the World Eminent Chinese Business Association (WECBA), donor and co-organizer of the African project.
As of Wednesday, more than 31 million yuan had been received. Funds raised will help construct 20 schools in Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, Burundi and Rwanda, the CYDF’s statement said.
The CYDF stressed all donations for the African project came from the WECBA and the foundation has not organized any fundraising activities for the initiative.
“The CYDF is only responsible for receiving and managing the funds raised by the WECBA, and the execution of the project,” read a statement from the organization.
Meanwhile, a 1.5-billion-yuan fundraising target was set by the WECBA, Tu Meng, chairman of the CYDF, told the 21st Century Business Herald.
Lu Junqing, president of the WECBA, promised to donate 100 million yuan. His 24-year-old daughter Lu Xingyu, who donated 1 million yuan, reportedly chaired the project as the executive chairman and secretary-general of the China-Africa Project Hope, causing some online speculation over the legitimacy of her position.
CYDF, however, does not mention her title. The WECBA credited her as the “secretary-general of Global Chinese Business’s Future Leaders.”
The credibility of China’s charity organizations is under the spotlight after the recent Guo Meimei scandal erupted in June.
Guo, under a faked title with the Red Cross Society of China, sparked outcry and people demanded more transparency of public donations after pictures of her lavish lifestyle were widely spread on the Internet.
Zheng Yuanchang, director of the social welfare and charity promotion office of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, is worried the CYDF might be over-expanding.
“It’s a good thing that Project Hope is reaching out, but the CYDF should always put China as their priority,” he told the Global Times.
“It’s not good for the foundation to aim too high in the first place. It needs a lot of time to gain experience, establish connections and train staff,” he said.