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February 11, 2010

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Legislation on way to penalize defaulters in charity donations

SHANGHAI lawmakers are planning the country's first legislation that will enable legal action against people who pledge donations to charity and fail to pay.

Legislators told Shanghai Daily yesterday that work had begun on drafting the law but there was as yet no timetable for its introduction.

Film actress Zhang Ziyi this week was pressured into fulfilling a shortfall in her cash pledge for the relief effort after the devastating earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province in May 2008.

Future donors to charity foundations in Shanghai who renege may face an appearance in court under the proposed law.

The city's People's Congress said yesterday the Shanghai Charity Foundation Donation Regulation may be discussed and passed later this year.

Charity foundations could sue donors failing to fulfill their promises, according to the draft.

Lawmakers are still gathering public opinion to improve the proposed legislation.

Zhang paid out 160,000 yuan (US$23,432) on Monday, completing the 1-million-yuan donation she promised immediately after the earthquake.

The Chinese film star has achieved international fame but is often surrounded by controversy.

Her latest crisis emerged after a receipt from the Chinese Red Cross Foundation showed she had only paid 840,000 yuan.

Zhang's agent, Ji Lingling, said in a written apology released to the public that the situation was due to a mistake by accountants authorized by the actress to handle the donation.

In the Zhang statement, Ji shouldered the blame for the "mistake."

It was a stark about-face from last Friday, when Ji insisted that Zhang had paid the full amount.

The latest statement said the shortfall remained unnoticed until recently when the receipt from the Red Cross became known on the Internet.

An anonymous Netizen first raised the shortfall on January 22, citing information from the Chinese Red Cross Foundation.

Earlier media reports said that about US$2 million in donations given by people overseas had been deposited in Zhang's private bank account in the United States.

Ji said the actress had set up a charity foundation for Sichuan earthquake relief in the US for the convenience of contributors overseas, many of them Zhang's friends.

Ji said only US$500,000 was now in the foundation account after redirection.


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