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Words to the wise on charity

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-16 07:33
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Zheng Yuanchang, director of the Ministry of Social Affairs' charity and social donation office

"Stars should bear some things in mind when engaging in charity.

First, charity is professional. You must understand relevant laws and rules, or you could turn good intentions into misdeeds.

Second, charity requires adhering to certain techniques. For example, when you have not collected an amount of money, how can you tell the media and public you have? You could have said that you might, or hopefully would, collect that much. As an organizer, you can make public the names of pledge-makers, enabling the public to help supervise them. Or you could work with professionals in the field, such as foundations. In China, people cannot raise money on their own behalves.

Third, you should publicize relevant information and ensure its transparency. Passion is not enough. Stars feel fantastic about the public's praise when doing charity work but often forget to follow up on the project. You should inform the public of the deadlines for handing over the money and of any problems you encounter. And you should make sure you communicate with the public continuously throughout the process.

Finally, I think we should reflect on not only Zhang Ziyi's case but also on the fact that most people in our society do not know how to do charity. Thinking about this will help charity's development in China. Ask yourself: If you were in Zhang's shoes, could you do it right? You will find 80 percent or 90 percent of us might end up like her or even worse off. Therefore, we should learn how to do charity together."

Zhang Yiwu, Peking University professor, who once compared Zhang Ziyi with Confucius in terms of promoting Chinese culture overseas

"I don't believe she meant to cheat. But I do think that if she had not promised too much or had lived up to what she had promised, things would be much better.

One should know his or her limits. Nobody is omnipotent. Charity is something that really should be done by professionals. Too much idealism or romanticism may not always lead to a happy ending. I think Zhang Ziyi does not have an objective opinion of the abilities of those who promised to donate but failed to do so. But after all, she has donated much money - more than most of us have - and we should encourage any positive contributions.

Zhang plays an important role in China's international communications. Popular and traditional culture are both important elements of a country's image. Zhang is one of the most important symbols of China's popular culture. Today, I still think we need more people like her. There are few Chinese stars with her level of influence."

China Daily