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Charity performance hits Beijing
By Raymond Zhou & Lin Qi (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-07 01:32

As stars gave their voices, the public donated -- and all for a cause most worthy.

An unprecedented charity show which brought together some of China's top entertainers played to an enthusiastic and magnanimous crowd last night at Beijing's Workers Stadium, raising an as yet uncounted sum for the victims of the tsunami catastrophe.

The line-up of singers, actors and TV show hosts extolled the public for their generosity and during the performances, placed their own red gift envelopes into giant boxes on the stage.

It was announced during the show that the largest corporate donor was China National Petroleum Corporation, which had raised more than 12.56 million yuan (US$1.5 million). While the largest individual giver was Zeng Wei, a Beijing real-estate developer, who, together with his wife, chipped in 1 million yuan (US$120,000).

Donations of US$2 million collected via the Red Cross Society of China will reach four countries in the next one or two days time.

"Indonesia and Sri Lanka will each get US$600,000, the Maldives US$500,000 and Thailand US$300,000," said Red Cross spokesman Wang Xiaohua.

The moneys will be distributed to local Red Cross societies through Chinese embassies.

"Since the Maldives has no such organization, we will hand over the money to authorities there," said Wang.

By 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon the Red Cross in China had collected a total of around 45 million yuan (US$5.4 million).

The China Charity Federation, meanwhile, reported donations of 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) as of yesterday.

Wen Chang, a singer from Taiwan whose hometown in Indonesia, very close to the disaster area, sang the song "Clouds of My Hometown" to express his gratitude for the outpouring of love and sympathy from his home country to those in his adopted land.

Also on the stage 1980s film actor-turned comedian Zhu Shimao said: "It is the first time I have performed a charity function for another country.. "This event is a reflection of the new international status and strength of our country as well as ordinary Chinese people's heightened awareness of the outside world."

The event was hastily organized by a group of Beijing-based performing artists, including the director of the current box office hit World without Thieves, Feng Xiaogang.

Mainland entertainers have been criticized for their slow response to this and other crises such as last year's SARS outbreak. And the industry compares unfavourably to its Hong Kong counterparts, whose philanthropic thrust and quick response have been lauded by fans everywhere.

Industry insiders in Beijing blame it on the absence of a trade organization that can pull through such a mammoth endeavour under extreme time pressure.

"We only had three days to organize the whole thing. I wish we had more time," said Meng Xin, one of the show's producers.

Guan Mucun, a singer originally from Tianjin, told China Daily that mainland artists have the same big heart as their Hong Kong cousins. "What we need is someone to stand up and call the shots."

Like many of her fellow artists, Guan admitted that this was the first charity event she has ever participated in, geared towards helping other countries.

"As we help others in distress, we'll earn the respect and right to receive help when we encounter such disasters," said Chen Luyu, a Pheonix TV anchorwoman and one of the five hosts of the show.

Deng Yaping, an Olympic ping-pong gold-medallist, sang in the chorus. "Though we as a nation have difficulties of our own, the act of reaching out to others will boost our international image," she said.

Pop singer Cheng Fangyuan, of the Oriental Song and Dance Company, bedridden with a severe cold, had to turn down the offer to perform at both last night's show and tonight's charity performance in Hong Kong. "For me, helping others does not necessarily involve self publicity," she said.

Cheng sent 10,000 yuan (US$1,200) to the Red Cross before New Year's Day, without any fanfare. "I had to make two trips because the post office at that time did not even know how to handle this kind of money transfer."

According to the press release from the show, pop diva Na Ying has pledged 50,000 yuan (US$6,000) and screen prima donna Liu Xiaoqing 20,000 yuan (US$2,400). Neither could make the stage due to personal reasons.

Zhang Yimou, arguably China's greatest film-maker, was not part of the event but news was leaked yesterday that he had become the largest donor among the mainland's entertainment industry with 300,000 yuan (US$362,000).

As of noon yesterday, the ad hoc charity committee led by Feng Xiaogang had raised 1,347,886 yuan (US$162,790) from China's show business.

"It's star power put to good use," said Zhu Shimao.

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