Vig­i­lance over on­line fund­ing needed to in­crease trust

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Liu Lulu The author is a re­porter with the Global Times. opin­ion@glob­al­

The death of three-year-old Wang Fengya, a girl born in an im­pov­er­ished ru­ral fam­ily and di­ag­nosed with ma­lig­nant eye tu­mor, touched a raw nerve among mil­lions of ne­ti­zens. But what has trig­gered a pub­lic out­cry is a fol­lowup re­port on the girl’s fam­ily.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the tragedy, some we-me­dia out­lets ac­cused Wang’s mother of spend­ing the 150,000 yuan ($23,900) raised on on­line fund­ing plat­form Shuidi­ for Wang’s treat­ment, on the girl’s brother, sug­gest­ing that the ru­ral fam­ily fa­vors boys over girls. The only ev­i­dence they have is the pic­ture Wang’s mother posted on her WeChat mo­ment when she had her son un­dergo cleft palate surgery at a high-end pri­vate clinic in Beijing. The irked Chi­nese ne­ti­zens de­scribed the mother as un­wor­thy of be­ing a par­ent and even blamed her for Wang’s death. Feel­ing wronged, the wo­man de­cided to sue the re­porter.

Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that the to­tal do­na­tion Wang’s fam­ily re­ceived was about 38,000 yuan, far less than the ru­mored 150,000 yuan. More­over, the surgery on Wang’s brother was car­ried out months be­fore the girl’s can­cer di­ag­no­sis, which ac­cord­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, was funded by an­other char­ity. “There is no way we could have mis­used the do­na­tions,” Wang’s grand­fa­ther was quoted as say­ing. He later handed over the un­spent 1,301 yuan to a lo­cal char­ity. Ne­ti­zens, who harshly crit­i­cized Wang’s fam­ily, even­tu­ally apol­o­gized.

In the drama, both donors and re­cip­i­ents lost. Buried in grief, the poor mother only found her­self caught in a vor­tex of ru­mors and scorching crit­i­cism. The con­fi­dence of donors was dented, although it turned out that they were not taken for a ride.

On­line fund-rais­ing is a new con­cept in the internet era. On­line plat­forms like Shuidi­ have pro­vided peo­ple in need with di­verse chan­nels to seek help and proven to be an ef­fec­tive tool for rais­ing funds. But un­de­ni­ably, there are al­ways peo­ple try­ing to take ad­van­tage of such plat­forms. The story of Luo Yix­iao is still fresh in pub­lic mem­ory. The child, di­ag­nosed with leukemia, be­came a buzz­word on WeChat af­ter her fa­ther pub­lished a heart-wrench­ing mis­sive call­ing for help on­line. The com­pany, will­ing to help Luo’s fam­ily, pledged that its do­na­tions would de­pend on the num­ber of times the mes­sage was re­posted. As a re­sult, mil­lions of ne­ti­zens shared the story, con­tribut­ing mil­lions for Luo. How­ever, it turned out that the fund-rais­ing was merely an at­tempt to help the com­pany gain pop­u­lar­ity. Luo’s fam­ily is re­ported to have owned three apart­ments in Shen­zhen and is fi­nan­cially ca­pa­ble of get­ting the girl treated. Sim­i­lar in­ci­dents are un­avoid­able in the ini­tial stages of on­line fund-rais­ing plat­forms. In­stead of point­ing a fin­ger at the re­porter be­hind Wang’s story and Luo’s fa­ther, more ef­forts are needed to strengthen su­per­vi­sion and im­prove mech­a­nisms so as to pre­vent such in­ci­dents from hap­pen­ing. For in­stance, the amount of money raised via on­line fund­ing plat­forms should be made more trans­par­ent, or at least the donors should know about it. How the money is spent should also be re­ported to avoid mis­use or mis­un­der­stand­ings. Af­ter all, on­line fund­ing plat­forms have of­fered needy peo­ple more ac­cess to help and need to be pro­tected.

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