Another great big mess is brewing in the world of Chinese charity. Just weeks after the cooling off of the Guo Meimei (郭美美) case, in which a young woman’s extravagant lifestyle touched off a firestorm over alleged corruption at the China Red Cross Society, web users have singled out another young woman for infamy.
Lu Xingyu (卢星宇), 24, is reportedly the executive chairman and secretary-general of the China-Africa Project Hope, a charity whose goal is to build 1,000 primary schools in Africa over the next 10 years. But web users and now traditional media journalists, have been probing into the project, asking the same sorts of questions we saw in the Guo Meimei case? What kind of charity is this? Is the money being used properly? Is proper oversight being exercised?
It seems that the Lu Xingyu story was first broken by CMP fellow and Xinmin Weekly journalist Yang Jiang (杨江), who made the first post on Sina Microblog at 10:06pm on August 16. That post, which was widely shared, was deleted by Sina, and prompted Lu to change the name of her microblog account (“Lu Xingyu — Vampire Mermaid”).
[ABOVE: This photo of Lu Xingyu has circulated widely on social media in China today.]
As with the earlier Guo Meimei case, this one is a hornet’s nest of questions and accusations. The question now is how many threads the media will pull before the axe falls. With the recent furor over the government mishandling of the July 23 high-speed train collision in Wenzhou, following on the heels of the Red Cross Society of China fiasco, leaders are probably anxious to prevent another bomb from going off this summer.
[ABOVE: In this video also shared widely on social media today, the young Lu Xingyu talks about her charity work and talks about the “second-generation rich”, or the sons and daughters of China’s wealthy, becoming the “second-generation Benevolent” (仁二代).]
We’ll move quickly to one of today’s news stories to give readers a taste of what this story is all about. But here are a couple of threads explored today.
Web users revealed, and the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper apparently confirmed, that the World Eminent Chinese Business Association (WECBA) of which Lu Xinyu is a member, and which is an organizational founder of China-Africa Project Hope, is not registered, as required of all organizations in China, with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The association is actually a private business registered in Hong Kong, the paper said. The China Youth Development Fund, which is operated by the Chinese Communist Youth League, confirmed to Chinese media yesterday that China-Africa Project Hope was jointly created by the Fund and the (unregistered) WECBA.
This is not of course the first time the China Youth Development Fund’s charity actions have been under the spotlight. Prior to the recent scandal involving the China Red Cross Society, one of the biggest charity scandals on record in China was corruption at Project Hope, a project administered by the CYDF to support individual school fees for poor Chinese children. A report by CMP fellow Zhai Minglei in 2001 exposed fraudulent practices at Project Hope for Southern Weekend newspaper, and a subsequent report by Southern Weekend, killed under government pressure but eventually posted to the internet, implicated top Project Hope officials on the basis of testimony from a senior whistleblower.
Web users and media are also making much of the fact that China-Africa Project Hope skims off 10 percent of all donations as a “management fee” for administrative purposes, but views differ over just how improper (or not) that is. In this series of videos, Lu Xingyu directly answers the doubts of web users and asks: “What are you doing? Are you actually going out there to help others, or are you just chattering online?”
The following is a portion of a news story appearing today in the Zhejiang Evening News and on QQ.com.
After Guo Meimei, another celebrity has emerged on the microblogs.
Born in 1987, a graduate of California State University, the executive chairman and secretary-general of the China-Africa Project Hope, secretary-general of the Global Chinese Business Future Leaders (全球华商未来领袖俱乐部), and a member of the second-generation rich (富二代) . . . Add these all together and you get Lu Xingyu (卢星宇), the latest hot person on the internet.
On August 16, the “China-Africa Project Hope Primary School” (中非希望小学) became a hot word on microblogs, and this low-profile project and its “second-generation rich” manager Lu Xingyu became the focus of widespread attention by web users. Web users called Lu Xingyu “Guo Meimei 2” (郭美美二代), [in reference to the you woman at the center of the Red Cross Society of China scandal in June], and said she would “usurp Guo Meimei to become the latest red-hot person on the Web.” The point of interest in paying attention to Lu Xingyu is attention to a topic that has lately been a focus in society — corruption in the charity sector.
Yesterday, this reporter interviews Lu Xingyu by personal correspondence via microblog, and at 5pm that day Lu Xingyu openly answered several major questions of concern to journalists and web users.
The “China-Africa Hope Primary School” Suddenly Goes Hot
On August 16, some media reported that many schools for the children of migrant workers in Beijing were being demolished, news that affected around 30,000 students in Daxing, Chaoyang and Haiding [districts]. This news drew a lot of attention and was a point of sore disappointment. As their attention was drawn to news related to “hope schools” [operated by the government-run charity Project Hope], some web users discovered the “China-Africa Hope Primary School” project, and they posted this information online. This was how the project came into the view of web users — and the convoluted family relationships of the project’s presidium [of top managers] also stunned people.
According to a June 13 report from Xinhua News Agency, “China-Africa Project Hope” plans to fund the construction of 1,000 Hope primary schools in Africa in the next 10 years, spending around two billion yuan [US$310 million].
Web users discovered quite quickly that China-Africa Project Hope executive chairman and secretary-general Lu Xingyu had set up a microblog in her real name, her ID “Lu Xingyu — Vampire Mermaid” (卢星宇-吸血鬼美人鱼), and her verified information: executive chairman and secretary-general of the China-Africa Hope Project, and secretary-general of the Global Chinese Business Future Leaders.
One web user wrote on their microblog: “Lu Xingyu has become famous overnight, covering right over Guo Meimei! So it turns out that this little sister born in 1987 is responsible for this project in which China is spending 1.5 billion to build 1,000 Hope primary schools in Africa. The charity organization she runs, just like the China Red Cross Society, take 10 percent of total donations as a management fee, so that’s 150 million yuan. No wonder she’s so keen on going and making sure African kids can go to school, while children in her own country can’t go to school.”
Lu Xingyu’s Background is Uncommon
After this was exposed, Lu Xingyu’s information, photos and other material became the focus of much attention, and they drew gusts of discussion from web users. Related information shows that Lu Xingyu is just 24 years old, and is the daughter of billionaire Lu Junqing (卢俊卿), the chairman of the China Merchants Association (华商500强俱乐部主席), chairman of the board of directors of Tianjiu Confucian Business Investment Group (天九儒商投资集团), acting chairman of the World Eminent Chinese Business Association (WECBA/世界杰出华商协会), and a recipient of a gold medal from the Global Charity Federation (全球公益慈善联盟). Lu Xingyu is a graduate in media studies from the California State University.
Yesterday afternoon, this reporter dialed the three separate number provided on the official website of “China-Africa Project Hope” [apparently not now available]. Two of these were never answered, the third was answered but the person on the other end said it was not the China-Africa Hope Project and hung up the phone saying “you dialed the wrong number.”
The reporter saw on the official website of China-Africa Project Hope that this fund is a special charity foundation set up by and enterprise legal person (企业法人), a social organization legal person (社会团体法人) and a natural person (自然人) with contributions from the Youth Development Fund [of the Chinese Communist Youth League, which administers the charity Project Hope in China]. [The project] has already up to now built primary schools in Tanzania, Kenya and other countries, supporting poor students. The project’s income is derived from donations from the organizers, donations from members of Global Chinese Business Future Leaders, and donations from the World Eminent Chinese Business Association and donations from other enterprises. And 10 percent of donations are applied as administrative costs of the the project’s services and management.
This project’s executive board consists of 9 members, it’s executive chairman being Lu Xingyu. Additionally, people have suspected that this fund is essentially a family enterprise, and two young members of the executive board are the son and daughter respectively of the president and co-president.