Thursday, 25 April 2013

A Convenient Excuse

Thank God that the powerful earthquake at 7.0 on Richter scale that hit Ya'an of Sichuan province last Saturday, 20 April, was less devastating than what Wenchuan experienced five years ago. To date almost 200 people were killed, leaving some 11,000 injured and hundreds of thousands homeless.

While the toll is by all means too much to take, it is still relieving to see the damage of life and property seemed less deadly than the earthquake in 2008.

What seems more nauseating though is that many people in Hong Kong, some of my media friends included, are now asking people not to donate to help the victims. If you want to donate, they said, make sure you don't give to the corrupt officials but reputable and trustworthy charitable organisations. A few others advocate donation of relief supplies rather than cash to minimise the opportunity of embezzlement.

Many, though not all, officials of communist China are notoriously corrupt. This has been the case for at least thirty, if not more, years since the opening-up reforms. Vested interests are so inextricable with the existing political and economic structures that despite repeated calls from the paramount leaders to stay clean, corruption has seemingly become an inevitable parasite, which is too extensive to be eradicated. But I find it incomprehensible to refuse giving a helping hand to the earthquake victims out of nothing but sheer hatred and resentment against their government.

"China is so rich that it doesn't run out of cash for disaster relief, if it wants to do something. Their officials are so corrupt that our money will most probably end up in their pockets rather than the victims. So we'd better not to give a penny." So my friends said. Similar messages smeared all over the place on my Facebook wall.

A chill ran down my spine when I came across the first message of this kind. Then anger erupted and set my heart on flames. I hate to repeat the official rhetoric of nationalism and patriotism, which is completely irrelevant. My point is utterly simple: What on earth the victims have to do with the corrupt officials? What have those who barely survived and lost their loved ones done to deserve all these heartless coldness and contemptuous scepticism?

For one thing, we are not giving everything we have to help. Any donation should mean nothing more than a token of support for those in need. For another, I feel compelled to help because, thanks to the tireless relay of information through the mass media, I happened to see someone is suffering, and I feel terribly sorry for them. Be they Chinese, my fellow countrymen and women, or those in the remote corners of Iran and many other parts of the world.

How many of you ever noticed that an earthquake also hit the borders of Iran and Pakistan after the Boston blasts? Why so many of you sympathise with the Japanese earthquake victims two years ago, as if someone in your family were killed, as well as those in the Boston but no one else? Does it mean sympathy is conditional and selective?

Our forefathers used to have cool heads and made a clear distinction between our nationality and identification with the regime. While they fled their homeland decades ago seeking a freer, better life here at the southern tip of the mainland, few of them surrendered their Chinese nationality. Clearly, time has now changed. Hatred and resentment has taken sense and sensibility away from people's brains and put in their place indifference, heartlessness and a resolution to detach from one's roots; the same mistake the Chinese communists, among others, had repeatedly committed throughout their rule.

Unfortunately, now it seems the Chinese communists have become a convenient excuse for our apathy, contempt, hatred, mistrust, scepticism and whatever cruel and silly things we do, including denying our belonging to the Chinese nation. Few seem to realise that by denying our Chinese nationality, we are losing ground to exerting a meaningful impact on the Chinese communists if we believe the best way to change China is to change them. Any violent transformation or revolution would be unimaginable at least for the time being. And I bet too many people who can't wait to see the communists topple have no clue what that really means.

Having said that, whether or not the Hong Kong government under Chun-ying Leung should donate HK$100 million to the provincial government of Sichuan is debatable. The amount is, of course, subject to further contemplation because it is taxpayers' money. An alternative, perhaps even more effective, form of help may be sending teams of professional rescuers, doctors, psychologists and other relief workers to offer counselling, medical and disaster relief services that will facilitate a speedy recovery of both physical and mental health among the victims. These should also be sufficient to address the concerns of those who are worried about the whereabouts of our donations. Although, knowing the Chinese communists, whether volunteer teams would be allowed access to the earthquake-hit areas remains a question, it should not become a convenient excuse for us to sit comfortably at home with folded arms and complain yet again about the communist regime. All victims need is help and support, not lip service.


  1. Anonymous5:08 am

    You bring up an ethical dilemma. While discussions are necessary, healthy and emotional, there will be unlikely a conclusive result. Charities all over the world now become an industry by themselves. Like any big organizations, mismanagement, corruption, wastage are rampant in those charity organizations. Chinese government-controlled charities are even worse without exception.

    What are we going to do in the event of calling for donation? I would suggest that making the donations if one feels better by doing so. However, do not expect the victims or the people you mean to help would be benefitted. In other words, the main purpose of charity donations is to make the donors feel better rather than helping the victims.

    Ontario, Canada

  2. Anonymous3:52 am

    During the Thatcher-Reagan Era academics in the Western think tanks tossed around the concept of “Trickle-Down Economy”. What that means is that when you feed the cattle enough grains there will be some in the dung on the road for the crows to pick. There is no doubt that many in China and HK subscribe to this theory. That translates that when the corrupted officials spend their pillage lavishly, the poor benefited somehow. In administering the charity materials and money, a small portion may indeed go to the victims after the officials take enough cuts for themselves. Trickles down charity?

    The world of charity is more complex than people world think. It is much complicated than one gives a few dollars to the beggar in the street corner where one would assume that the recipient in need for the next meal. There is no one between the giver and recipient. Charity organizations involve a much complex world. When it comes to the situation that any world renowned charities set up shops in China/Hong Kong, the subsidiaries are in fact an independent entity. How well or how honest, or lack of it, the branch offices are operating depends on the people in charge. The head quarters located in some faraway countries have little power to control and supervise their subsidiaries. In the end donating to these charities is similar to giving money to the church after the services. One gives based on faith, believing the church will put the money into good use because they are serving God or serving a noble ideal in the case of charity. The donor feels good in both cases regardless of the real result.

    Ontario, Canada


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