No less than 80 billion yuan (12.6 billion U.S. dollars) in public donations were made in China last year, Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo said Monday, citing a preliminary tally.
Although Li did not give an exact date for when the final numbers will be released, the estimate still surprised many who thought China's charity sector had sustained irrevocable damage after the sector's credibility was tarnished by embezzlement scandals that surfaced last year.
The most famous case revolved around a young woman calling herself "Guo Meimei." She claimed to work for an organization under the Red Cross Society of China and posted photos of her lavish lifestyle on the Internet, prompting speculation that she had embezzled money to fund her extravagances. The Red Cross Society of China has denied employing her.
Li said the assessment of China's philanthropic development should not be affected by a certain charity or the misconduct of an individual, which he said will not be tolerated.
China received public donations worth 100 billion yuan in 2008, after the country's southwestern regions suffered from a massive earthquake. In 2009, the figure fell to 54 billion yuan, but in 2010 it topped 100 billion yuan again, partly because of the Yushu earthquake in northwest China's Qinghai province.
Li has promised further efforts to promote information transparency among China's charity sector.
Philanthropy in China has made great progress in recent years, said Li, noting that the number of non-governmental organizations established in China has hit 457,500, and most of them are involved in public service.
However, the minister said that modern philanthropy in China is still in a preliminary stage and problems exist in internal management, supervision and policy-making.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs will further relax restrictions on registering eligible social organizations and accelerate the formation of relevant regulations to ensure the healthy development of China's charity sector, Li said.