Let us use the tools of law to prick the donation hype, says an article in Beijing News. The following is an excerpt:
After the earthquake jolted Sichuan, a great many companies from home and abroad declared that they would donate large sums of money for the quake areas. But more than one month after the quake, 11 companies still have not paid the donation or only paid part of the donation. Among the 11 are renowned companies.
On the Internet, many netizens have questioned whether these companies can fulfill their donation promises and their worries seem not unnecessary. On previous occasions, some domestic companies made empty promises on donation - like in the 1998 floods, half of the promised 600 million yuan donation from companies was not paid at last.
However, the reconstruction after all, is long-term work and it seems too early to assert that these 11 companies will break their promises. The Ministry of Commerce authorities also made it clear that the current statistics on donation are incomplete and that the donation is a continuing process; even if some companies cannot hand out donations on time, it would be understandable and legal if they explain reasons of the delay and re-sign the donation deals. In a word, we cannot arbitrarily make a judgment right now. We believe few companies dare to fool the public and challenge the law with the media supervision and public opinion getting more mature than 10 years ago and the related laws and regulations on donation becoming more effective.
However, these companies had better explain the donation details to the public to face up to their questions and protect their public image. This is an important link in public relations of a company.
Of course, the donations this time are different from ordinary charity activities due to the emergency of the anti-quake work. So the term for paying the donation promised by individuals and enterprises and the consequences of failing to keep their promises should be regulated by laws and regulations, especially for those verbal promises without formal documents. It normally takes recipients of donations high costs and a long time to collect the promised donations from companies and that is why many charity groups are not willing to sue these companies for breaking their promises.
Therefore, besides verbal promises, formal donation agreements and related legal procedures cannot be bypassed. This is something charity groups and donation companies should both realize. Even though charity is a moral act, we cannot depend only on morality because it may lead to unnecessary costs.
(China Daily June 23, 2008)