A fresh round of controversy and recrimination has been sparked by a video showing staff from Shuidichou and Qingsongchou, two of China’s main crowdfunding platforms, coming to blows in a Hebei hospital. Shuidichou (水滴筹) and Qingsongchou (轻松筹) are both major crowdfunding platforms through which members of the public can fundraise to cover their medical expenses or other emergencies.
The incident occurred in Hospital No.1 of the Hebei Medical University, in Shijiazhuang, on the 13th of April. As far as the media has reported, the trouble started after the Shuidichou workers, who were in the hospital to try and convince needy patients to crowd-fund through their platform, were reported for disturbing the patients and asked to leave. They then grabbed the man who they believed had reported them, who turned out to work for the rival platform, and started hitting him. A video filmed by an onlooker shows the man lying on the ground while one of Shuidichou’s staff kicks him. The man doing the kicking was eventually arrested by the police and given 12 days of administrative detention, as well as a 500 Yuan fine.
Over the next few days, the two platforms released competing statements explaining what had happened. Shuidichou claimed that their staff were reacting to verbal abuse and insults from Qingsongchou’s staff. They also claimed that recently Qinsongchou has generally treated their platform with enmity, provoking and sabotaging them in various ways, even though they have repeatedly called for benign and fair competition. Qingsongchou responded that their staff were attacked and that the platform had already reported the attackers to the police. They claimed that it was not the first time that Shuidichou’s staff had physically assaulted representatives of other platforms.
The sight of representatives of what are supposed to be charitable platforms getting into a fistfight in a hospital provoked revulsion on the internet, with netizens on Weibo wondering how the two platform could possibly stoop so low, and commenting that they seem to be fighting for business rather than doing charity. An editorial in gongyi zibenlun (公益资本论) remarked that the two platforms have actually done a lot of good: Shuidichou became operative in June 2016, and by the end of October 2019 it had already helped almost a million people to fundraise more than 23.5 billion Yuan for medical fees, while Qingsongchou has helped fundraise over 36 billion Yuan. Those who criticize the platforms for mixing charity and business fail to see that this operating mode has enabled them to help a lot of people in need, claimed the editorial. On the other hand, the piece also opined that these large fundraising platforms are clearly suffering from “mission drift” as their pursuit of social value is being replaced by an unscrupulous scramble for profit, and they need to reflect on how to get back to their original mission.