Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Growing corruption may eat up donations in China

AFP , BEIJING

People around the world have reached deep into their pockets to help survivors of China’s devastating earthquake, but fears are growing corruption will mean not all donations reach the millions in need.

In the two weeks since the quake that rocked Sichuan Province, leaving more than 87,000 people dead or missing, a staggering 34.79 billion yuan (US$5 billion) in donations has been collected at home and abroad.

However, reports have already emerged of diverted aid supplies or scams being launched to grab a piece of the largesse.

Corruption is rampant in China, both in government ranks and throughout society, as the country plows through its development boom without a free press or an independent judiciary.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has repeatedly warned that corruption is one of the biggest threats to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party.

With the eyes of the world on China’s relief effort, the government has repeatedly warned that any corruption involving the relief money would be dealt with harshly.

On Wednesday, the party’s anti-graft chief said officials would receive “quick, strict, and harsh penalties” if found guilty of corrupt practices that impact the earthquake relief effort.

“Making a profit from a national calamity by withholding and embezzling quake relief funds and supplies goes against the principles of justice,” He Guoqiang (賀國強), secretary of the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.

“Once such misconduct is spotted, it must be dealt with quickly and harshly and laid bare in public,” He said.

The Civil Affairs Ministry has also sought to emphasize its efforts in ensuring relief money is not wasted.

“The funds collected by relevant government agencies or the treasury must not be drastically reduced by administrative costs,” civil affairs ministry spokesman Yu Jianliang (�?}) has said.

Aid charities must publish the percentage of donations used for such expenses, he said.

Most of the aid donations are being funneled through the Chinese Red Cross, the non-governmental China Charity Federation or various governmental groups, the ministry said on its Web site.

About a third of the US$5 billion in donations has already reached the disaster zone, the ministry said.

However, authorities have already uncovered several instances of misuse of funds.

In the quake-devastated city of Mianyang, the People’s Daily reported 10 cases of tents being used by people whose homes had not been destroyed.

In the city of Deyang, government officials were found hiding cases of milk, biscuits and drinks in a store run by their relatives, the Web site wenxuecity.com reported — prompting a near-riot by thousands of angry victims.

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