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Donations Help Poor Survive Bitter Winter

Answering an appeal by, and following the personal example of, President and Communist Party of China General Secretary Hu Jintao, a new wave of charitable donations is rippling from Zhongnanhai, headquarters of the central leadership, to the entire CPC central apparatus in Beijing.

The nine standing committee members of the CPC Political Bureau have donated.

So did Jiang Zemin, Hu's immediate predecessor.

Hu's call was at first intended for CPC members only. He wanted his CPC comrades to show concern and sympathy for the needy, especially those in disaster-hit areas, who have difficulty coping with the winter chill.

He wanted to show benevolence, to convey the message that the Party means it when it says "people first."

He wanted CPC members to demonstrate their devotion to public welfare.

Within and without Zhongnanhai, people are reaching deep into their pockets and combing family wardrobes. Winter clothes, quilts, and cash are being rushed to donation counters in a race against sweeping cold fronts.

Weather forecasts indicate that, thanks to frequent cold fronts from the northwest, the abrupt drop in temperature in most parts of the country would not ease, at least in the next few days. Even more unsettling, some areas are suffering record-low temperatures not seen in decades.

In cities, we have families making do without heat because they just cannot afford it.

In the countryside, there are households, already living from hand to mouth, unable to buy the additional fuel to battle the unexpected cold weather.

The scenario is even worse in the counties in Jiangxi Province, where family houses were razed to the ground in earthquakes, and many have to spend the winter days in thin tents.

It is reassuring to see the prevailing sense of urgency in the ongoing donations.

We have to race against time so the "heart-warming project" can deliver the intended warmth when it is most desperately needed.

In our culture, the display of compassion itself usually matters more than the practical help it ensues.

That is why the Chinese say, "the gift is trifling, but the feeling is profound."

But when Hu called for the donations, he had the idea to provide pragmatic materials for those in need.

Our government has earmarked special funds for relief work in disaster-hit regions. And, like in every previous winter, all local authorities have received an order to make sure the financially inadequate get through the year's most challenging season.

Hu's personal appeal communicates a distinct perspective.

Through his own donation, Hu showed his care for society's underdogs, which is in line with his and the national leadership's populist approach.

Considering the relatively low proportion of CPC members in our population, below 5 per cent nationwide, their number is not big in Beijing. It is unrealistic to expect donations from such a small portion of our population to meet all the needs for assistance.

But they are a signal of care.

Most encouragingly, that very signal is being amplified as the contingent of donors broadens.

Non-CPC members are not only taking part, they are outnumbering CPC members as donors in many institutions.

Acts of benevolence is highly contagious.

We hope we are witnessing the start of a benign cycle in the making.

(China Daily December 14, 2005)

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