by Xinhua writers Wu Chen and Wu Caixia
SHENZHEN, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) — The One Foundation, begun by Kung Fu star Jet Li, has ended its cooperation with the Red Cross Society of China and announced the establishment of an independent public fund-raising foundation here on Tuesday.
This is the first case that a non-governmental foundation affiliated with a government-run organization has successfully been transformed into a public fund-raising organization.
Experts say this is a great step forward in China’s social organizations management system reform and shows the support of the Chinese government in the development of NGOs.
The Jet Li One Foundation had been operating as a special program under the Red Cross Society of China, since China does not have laws or regulations which allow the establishment of non-governmental public fund-raising foundations.
Wang Rupeng, spokesman for the Red Cross Society of China, says the One Foundation, under his organization, raised more than 190 million yuan (nearly 29 million U.S. dollars) in the past three years and distributed some 140 million yuan to different philanthropic projects.
Actually, many individuals or NGOs choose to cooperate with foundations or organizations run, or partly run, by the government, in order to receive permission to raise money from the public. For example, more than 40 “foundations” are currently under the organizational umbrella of the Chinese Red Cross Foundation.
However, Jet Li complained that the One Foundation had little say in deciding on the use of money it had raised. According to his plan, his foundation sought to focus more on supporting domestic grass-roots NGOs, which lack both money and professionals, while the Red Cross Society of China is an organization paying more attention to disaster relief.
Li has been trying hard to apply to establish an independent public-raising foundation.
And this is a common problem faced by Chinese NGOs when establishing public fund-raising foundations. Further, a lack of transparency by NGOs is another concern of the government.
In recent years, especially after the devastating Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008, Chinese NGOs have been developing rapidly, in terms of both quantity and quality, according to Wang Zhenyao, director of the Beijing Normal University One Foundation Philanthropy Research Institute.
The government has seen this development and has started to encourage the expansion of NGOs, says Wang Zhenyao, who is also a retired official from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
China started a trial project in Shenzhen, China’s first special economic zone, to advance the reform of the civil affairs system in July 2009, which allowed the city’s authorities to approve the creation of public fund-raising foundations. In the past, only the Ministry of Civil Affairs had this authority.
Liu Runhua, director of the Shenzhen Civil Affairs Bureau, says they invited the One Foundation to register in Shenzhen while knowing the obstacles it has been confronted by.
Finally, the Shenzhen One Foundation successfully registered on Dec. 3, 2010.
Besides Jet Li, most of the 11 members on the council of the Shenzhen One Foundation are top Chinese entrepreneurs, including Tencent CEO Ma Huateng and Alibaba Group CEO Ma Yun. Economist Zhou Qiren was selected as director of the council and Vanke Chairman Wang Shi is acting as the executive director.
Wang Rupeng says, at the request by One Foundation, the Red Cross Society of China will audit One Foundation’s financial records and the rest of the fund and ongoing projects will be transferred to the Shenzhen One Foundation.
Wang Shi noted that the newly established foundation will continue its original projects, including philanthropic funding to grass-roots NGOs, training professionals and assisting with disaster relief.
It will also develop new projects according to the demands of the public.
“A development strategy in the upcoming three years will be discussed at the next council meeting, which will be held no later than early March,” said Wang Shi during an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
Wang Zhenyao says the establishment of the Shenzhen One Foundation is a milestone for the development of China’s NGOs.
“It is a breakthrough in the system and can be copied by other organizations,” Wang Zhenyao says.
Ma Hong, director of the Shenzhen NGO administration bureau, says the door to registering public fund-raising foundations is now open to all NGOs.
However, it does not mean many of them will be approved in the short term, she says.
“We have to evaluate them properly and make approvals when they meet the standards,” Ma says, adding that credibility and transparency are critical for the development of NGOs.
Wang Shi says the successful experience of the establishment of the Shenzhen One Foundation includes transparency, professionalism and following rules and regulations.
“Other NGOs may learn from it,” he says.
Article link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-01/12/c_13687548.htm