Crowdfunding campaigns come under scrutiny again

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A crowdfunding effort on behalf of a well-known comedian has turned into China’s latest controversy over crowdfunding.

On April 8, xiangsheng (crosstalk) comedian Wu Hechen suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and was hospitalized in Beijing. His condition has since stabilized. Following this, his family began trying to raise donations for a total of 1 million Yuan on the crowdfunding platform Shuidichou (水滴筹). Wu’s mother wrote on her platform account that both herself and Wu’s father have already retired, and their income is not nearly sufficient to afford the necessary medical care. She expressed the hope that members of the public could lend a hand and help her family.

This was met with suspicion and accusations of fraud by internet-users. One comment asserted that the family is in fact doing all right financially, with two homes and a car, but instead of asking relatives and friends to help out it asks regular people to donate. On May 3, a Weibo account claiming to belong to Wu’s wife posted a message saying that enough money had been raised, and that donations were now closed. The total amount raised was claimed to be 148,184 Yuan.

The Weibo account then posted proof that both of the houses at the centre of the criticisms are in fact public rental housing and cannot be sold, and explained that since the family lives 60 kms. from the hospital and includes elderly and disabled members, they are unable to sell their family’s car. The account also posted an official, stamped document listing all of Wu’s mother’s properties.

This did not satisfy many Internet critics, who were suspicious that the account did not post evidence of Wu and his wife’s property, but only his mother’s.

In response to the criticism, a representative of the crowdfunding platform commented that people who own homes and cars can still ask for donations, but presenting themselves as a “poor household” is a misuse of the platform. The platform also contacted the hospital, but the hospital would not release the medical expense forms.

On May 4, Wu’s comedy troupe responded to the criticism and claimed that the crowdfunding account opened by Wu’s wife followed all the platform’s regulations, and all money donated will be directly channeled into the hospital account to be used for the rehabilitation expenses, with all the relevant details publicly released.