BEIRUT

World

Chinese billionaires criticised for giving Harvard $15m

File photo of a pair of rowers in the Charles River as Harvard University is reflected in the water in Cambridge

BEIJING: A Chinese billionaire couple have faced a deluge of criticism for donating $15 million to one of the richest and most prestigious universities in the US, with Internet users saying it would be better spent on students in China.

Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, the husband-and-wife duo behind real estate giant SOHO China, are giving $100 million to fund disadvantaged Chinese students at top universities across the globe.

The first stage of the programme was last week's gift to the Ivy League institution, widely regarded as one of the world's best universities.

Pan is not only one of China's wealthiest people but also one of the country's most-celebrated "Big V" bloggers, with nearly 17 million followers on the microblogging site Sina Weibo, at times drawing attention from the authorities.

China is the largest single source country for international students in the United States, providing more than a quarter of all foreign students, according to the Institute of International Education.

Many of those young people's studies are funded by their families, but Zhang told the Wall Street Journal that the firm's "SOHO China Scholarships" would be aimed at encouraging less-well-off Chinese students to apply to study abroad.

Nonetheless some users of Sina Weibo sharply criticised Pan and Zhang, questioning the couple's motives and arguing that disadvantaged students within China are more deserving of help.

- 'They despise their country' -

"They despise their own country and people," one Sina Weibo user wrote Thursday.

"It doesn't matter... the rise of China and Chinese higher education is historically inevitable," added the poster, who uses the name "Boycott Japanese goods forever".

Another user added: "Taking Chinese people's money and giving it to people who are able to study in America -- what a great definition of 'poverty'!"

Others defended the decision by the couple, who have also established a foundation to support education in rural areas of China.

"A lot of people are saying Pan Shiyi and his wife spent $15 million to buy their son a ticket to Harvard. However, we shouldn't find fault with how they decide to spend their own money," wrote one.

Zhang responded to the criticism on her own Weibo account, writing that without funding for poor students, good education would be reserved for the wealthy.

"Our scholarships will change this phenomenon," she wrote.

It is not the first time wealthy Chinese have faced nationalism-fuelled criticism of their philanthropic decisions.

Last year, China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, came under fire after his company Wanda Group spent $28 million on a painting by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, with some Internet users questioning the extravagant purchase as well as Wang's patriotism.

"Why not purchase Chinese paintings? What happened to passing on our own heritage?" one microblog user asked at the time.

Added another: "You can buy back China's lost treasures first if you have so much money to burn."

For his part, Pan has previously driven public opinion online on a variety of issues, and incurred the government's wrath by posting details of Beijing's dirty air levels, which at the time were not officially released.

At a meeting in mid-August, one of China's top officials responsible for Internet censorship, told Pan and other well-known bloggers to be "more positive and constructive" in their online comments, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Pan was later shown in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV, where he appeared contrite and warned of the dangers of "casual" online posts.

 

Recommended

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

A Chinese billionaire couple have faced a deluge of criticism for donating $15 million to one of the richest and most prestigious universities in the US, with Internet users saying it would be better spent on students in China.

Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, the husband-and-wife duo behind real estate giant SOHO China, are giving $100 million to fund disadvantaged Chinese students at top universities across the globe.

Pan is not only one of China's wealthiest people but also one of the country's most-celebrated "Big V" bloggers, with nearly 17 million followers on the microblogging site Sina Weibo, at times drawing attention from the authorities.

China is the largest single source country for international students in the United States, providing more than a quarter of all foreign students, according to the Institute of International Education.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here