05/22/2008, 00.00
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Earthquake aid: rich Chinese give less than the poor

by Zheng Siqing
The real estate sector, flush with money from projects for the Olympics, is in last place for donations, even though it represents 10% of GDP. One beggar has given the result of an entire day's offerings: 102 yuan. Construction company owners say their employees should give no more than 10 yuan.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The international community, together with China, is doing everything it can to help the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan.  But not the Chinese nouveau riche. Above all, the stinginess of real estate entrepreneurs is causing astonishment and scandal. And yet during preparations for the Olympics, they became rich overnight precisely by exploiting the sweat and blood of many immigrant workers from Sichuan.

It is not the first time that these kings of brick and mortar have shocked public opinion. Some of them - all children or other relatives of highly placed party leaders - elected as representatives of the political consultative conference, asked in March for more oversight of their sector, saying that "the high price of housing in China is the fault of the poor" and posing opposition to the laws introduced to defend workers' rights.

In regard to donations for the earthquake in Sichuan, one of them stated: "China is a country with frequent natural disasters. Donations must not become a burden for businesses and individuals. For this reason, offerings from our employees must not exceed 10 yuan (1 euro)". He continued: "I admire those who have donated 10 million, but for us 2 million is enough". The statements are from Wang Shi, head of China Vanke Co., Ltd., a real estate company that gave 2 million yuan (20 thousand euros) to earthquake victims. The figure is equivalent to a small apartment of 50 square metres in Beijing, and represents .045% of the company's net profit in 2007. To measure his generosity, it is sufficient to recall that this rich Chinese businessman spent "only" 4 million yuan for his son's wedding, and 3.7 million yuan over 6 years on mountain climbing, his favourite sport.

Ma Yun (Jack), chairman of the administrative board of Yahoo! China, as well as a member of the ABAC (Business Advisory Council) at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), declared for his part: "Although they have great potential, Chinese businessmen should not participate in works of charity, [but instead] increase production.  It seems sufficient to me to [give] 1 yuan (10 euro cents)".

One Chinese beggar has given more: he gave 102 yuan (about 10 euro) for earthquake victims, everything he had in his offering cup (see photo).

The tragedy of Sichuan also displays the general social situation in China today: the poor who have lost their jobs, the farmers who have lost their homes and land, the beggars who no longer have anything at all . . . In short, the weak who have been stripped of all their rights in order to enrich the sons and relatives of the communist leaders. And these nouveau riche, with no conscience, deny any social responsibility. All thanks to the policy of Deng Xiaoping, of "letting some grow rich before others". And here they are, the "first of the rich"!

The latest figures on the donations for the tragedy in Sichuan demonstrate that offerings from the real estate sector - which accounts for almost 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP) - are in last place, coming before only the health sector, which has offered medicine, equipment, and the work of paramedics, not calculated in the statistics.

Some famous Chinese real estate bosses, whose companies are listed on the stock exchange, have asked newspaper directors "not to put our company on the list that you publish, and above all not to print the exact figure". What does this mean? In the past, these businessmen have given great publicity to their statements. Figures like Ren Zhiqiang and Pan Shiyi have stunned public opinion with their views ("the poor should not demand to have a home of their own"; "we are not at the service of the common people, the rich are the aim of our service"; "the high price of housing is produced by the desire of the poor to buy homes"; "helping the poor is not our responsibility, but that of the state"). Today, instead, they prefer absolute silence.

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Crisis in China: 64 million empty apartments
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