Witnessing Corruption in China Firsthand
Volunteering in China was a good introduction and opportunity for me to get involved with the Qingdao expat community. The non-profit organization, Qingdao Expat Society, was a group of volunteers who raised money and awareness for children who were in need of heart surgery and better equipped school. Monies raised were given to children in the Shandong Province rural areas. Giving back to the community was a wonderful experience and as I reminisce over the time spent on projects I realize those years were the most informative and rewarding.
I volunteered to raise money for the Qingdao Expat Charity, taking on various roles as needed. Either constructing and designing props and costumes for the annual pantomime or serving time as the producer and stage director. The Charity also held other fund raising events such as the Qingdao International Christmas Market, Winter’s Ball, Hash House Harriers Steeple Race and Thursday Mahjong. I worked together with talented and tireless women and men, most of whom had full-time day jobs and families at home; but saw a need to help the unfortunate.
Soon school will be back in session. And, here in China it is unclear to me what the Communist party pays for and what it does not. For instance, books, computers, and uniforms seem to be unavailable to many poor families in the rural school districts. This prevents children from attending school without outside financial assistance and charity. I know America has a few similar issues in the education department but we are taught to be capitalists not communists and we do not ask Chinese charity organizations to help American families to pay for the necessary school supplies. For some of the more fortunate Chinese there appears to be academic and physical evidence from both political worlds.
A few years back I was invited to visit the rural schools of Shandong Province to meet a few of the children who qualified to receive charitable gifts. We drove to five different schools targeting primary and middle schools, and distributing the charity monies. I met the principals and teachers, drank tea, had lunch and sat puzzled for most of the day, wondering what was really going on and why was I invited? Maybe I was analyzing too much but I felt like the entire morning was a great facade, a theatrical display. Children were posing with the money donated. They even signed their names to prove they had received it but I had a nauseous sense of intuition that they were not receiving the entirety of the donation.
Maybe I have lived in China too long. I have witnessed corruption and inequality far too many times to not see a cause for reasonable doubt. I saw the children give the money back after the photo and the signature. I was sick to think they might not receive the full amount at the end of the day. A display of theatrics left me wondering who was paying for the extravagant lunch. Some things did not add up and I suspected that there was definitely a middle man getting his share from under the lunch table. My gut-wrenching hunch… the man who did not want his photo taken.
Recently I stumbled upon an article pertaining to the business and concept behind China’s Charity Law. “A law where a certain amount from everyone’s paycheck will have to be donated, just like a tax…and one single Charity Law can solve all problems facing charity in China.” Some speculate that the reason the Chinese government has control of the country’s charities is because China’s wealthy are well aware of the lack of transparency in the system and are wary of giving up money with the possibility of misuse of funds. There was a controversial idea to treat charitable giving as a tax. Many web users shared their anger and frustration towards an idea they denounced as “shameless” and “legalized robbery.”
Photos by Rita Nielsen.