Chen Weihua

Humanitarianism not measured by money

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-19 06:53
Large Medium Small

Haiti is a remote country to most Chinese, yet that does not mean the Chinese are any less responsive to the devastating earthquake that struck the Caribbean island nation a week ago.

The most active people, according to news reports, have been those in Sichuan province, which is still recovering from its massive earthquake disaster on May 12, 2008. People, from school children to grandparents, are donating to the local Red Cross.

Common humanitarian reasons aside, the Sichuan folks want to return the international community's enormous generosity for the help they received more than a year ago.

The relief work in Sichuan has displayed the compassion of Chinese and people all over the world, regardless of race, religion and ideology. It has also brought the Chinese nation closer. The disaster has made it possible for more Chinese to relate to the disaster and empathize with Haitians in every moment of this past week.

And buoyed by the shared emotions of pain, China has acted swiftly.

A 60-person Chinese rescue team was one of the first to arrive and provide medical service on the ground. The China Red Cross pledged $1 million. The Chinese government has also committed $4.4 million. And more Chinese assistance is on the way.

These efforts have been made despite the fact that China has no diplomatic ties with Haiti since humanitarianism should prevail over anything else.

However, some like to even politicize relief operations. John Bolton, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, has accused China of donating too little. In an interview with Fox News, he cited various political reasons for China's donation.

I doubt if Bolton truly believes that human compassion and sympathy can be gauged by money. A child in Sichuan, who probably cannot afford to give much, has shown the same loving heart as celebrities such as Ted Turner, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who have promised more than a $1 million.

Bolton's remark smacks of an irritating blacklist compiled by several Chinese who were frustratingly like-minded. It was a list of big corporations deemed most stingy in contributing to Sichuan quake victims.

I don't know if Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has also calculated the donations of other major economies to see if they are in proportion to respective GDPs.

The good thing is that even the few in China who share Bolton's negativity did not offer a list of the most thrifty donors in the country following the Sichuan quake. Such a list would be an insult to the compassion and sympathy of all human beings.

In fact, people like Bolton would make another fuss if they see China giving too much. He would most likely interpret it as China's attempt to offset US influence in Latin America or a bid to win over Haiti to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

To Bolton, China carries an ulterior motive no matter what it does.

I have been keeping a close eye on the development in Haiti since the quake rocked the troubled nation, four times bigger in territory than my hometown Shanghai. My flight from New York to Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti, on Sunday morning, was canceled, so was the Monday flight, leaving me struggling to think whether I should go via the Dominican Republic, on the same island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

When a Haitian consular staff in New York asked why I wanted to go there, I told him that the Chinese, after going through a similar trauma in 2008, are very concerned about Haiti.

After working with my daughter in the Sichuan quake zone as volunteers, I definitely can share the suffering that 8-million Haitians feel today. My donation this past weekend in an eastern suburb of New York City is a minimal amount compared to those aforementioned Hollywood stars. However, I would not tolerate it if Bolton intends to insult my feelings for Haitian people, or in the case of my daughter, who merely sent an e-mail to her Haitian classmate.

Haitians are desperate for more food, water and medical assistance, not the kind of politics Bolton is good at.