New breakthrough for grassroots charity groups

Updated: 2011-08-03 07:49

By Wang Yan, Shan Juan and Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)

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New breakthrough for grassroots charity groups
Xu Lina (left) and Duan Fei show 12-year-old Sun Tao how to use simple characters and pictures to communicate. Tao is deaf. Xu and Duan, founders of charity website, took Tao to the hospital in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, to be evaluated for a hearing aid. [Geng Feifei/China Daily]

Registration will make it easier to collect donations, report Wang Yan in Hebei and Shan Juan and Zhang Yuchen in Beijing.

The government is set to make it easier for civil societies involved in charitable works to register in a move that will advance China's social development, a senior civil affairs official said.

"China is taking concrete action" to allow charity and social organizations to register with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Dou Yupei, vice-minister of civil affairs, said.

Many civil societies are currently unregistered and operate outside the law.

Dou announced the move last month during a meeting in Beijing with Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

"We've finished with the regulation amendment work and submitted the new version to the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council," Dou told China Daily last week.

Under current regulations, a civil society cannot register without a government agency supervising its work.

"Few (agencies) want an attachment to a civil society for fear of potential trouble and the assumed political agenda behind their operation," said Thomas Cai, who heads AIDS Care China, a Guangzhou-based civil organization that provides support to AIDS patients and their families.

Therein lies a problem. Such an unattached organization, called a grassroots charity, cannot legally collect money. And donations are the blood that courses through a charity's caring heart.

'Hope for the best'

Duan Fei and Xu Lina have been running a website,, for six years. Baoen means "thanksgiving" in Mandarin. The married couple identify the site as "one for the commonweal".

"We collect information about people in need and post it on the website after verification, in the hope of attracting help from the kind-hearted," Duan, 30, said as he sat in the shady, north-facing office of their 11th floor apartment in Shijiazhuang, capital of North China's Hebei province.

On July 5, they welcomed Sun Tao, a 12-year-old from Gucheng county, southwest of Shijiazhuang. The orphan boy suffers from a hearing disorder and language barrier.

After picking up Tao and his companions - his teacher, Wang Hui, from the Gucheng Special Education School, and a local volunteer, Li Yanbo - at the end of their two-hour bus ride, the couple took the group to the First Hospital of Hebei Medical University at about 10 am.

"If things go well, we might be able to help him get a hearing aid," Duan said. That would cost about 10,000 yuan, but several people had shown interest in donating for the boy.

The complex examinations didn't end until around 4 pm, with a disappointing result. Tao has no residual hearing, meaning a hearing aid wouldn't help. The last hope is a cochlear implant, a small electronic device that provides a sense of sound to the profoundly deaf.

Duan and Xu looked helpless. The cost had suddenly jumped to 200,000 yuan ($31,000).

After buying return tickets for Tao and his companions, the couple went back to their office.

"Can you guys still help the boy?" they were asked

"I'm not sure," Xu said.

What she was not sure about was whether that much money could be collected. She already knew that, because the organization is not registered with a civil affairs department and has no legal identity, collecting funds privately could be illegal.

"We have also thought about asking big foundations for help," Duan said. "But they mainly aim at big projects or a group of people with similar problems, rather than individuals, as in Sun Tao's case."

"All we can do now is to post the boy's case online and hope for the best," Xu said.

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