Consulate General in Guangzhou raises 58,000 yuan in charity event

India’s Consulate General in the southern port city of Guangzhou was among several foreign missions that received counterfeit notes in a fund-raising drive that has stirred a controversy in China over the role of overseas organisations in charity events.

Thirty foreign consulates in Guangzhou held a charity event over the weekend to raise money for a home for local children with disabilities. The event was supported by the provincial Guangdong Foreign Affairs Office — one of the first such events that involved both the Chinese government and overseas missions working together for local charities, which are usually tightly controlled by the authorities.

The Indian Consulate played a key role in the fundraiser, raising close to one-fifth of the total 330,000 yuan (U.S. $53,225) made by the event. The Consulate General of India raised 57,673 yuan (U.S. $9,300) — becoming the single biggest contributor — by selling traditional incense sticks, jewellery boxes and silk and through funds raised from the Indian community, officials said.

An event that was supposed to have generated positive headlines about China working together with foreign countries has, however, found itself caught in controversy after it was discovered that a large amount of the money collected from local visitors was counterfeit.

The local Yangcheng Evening News reported that a group of visitors — apparently looking to take advantage of foreigners’ inability to detect fake notes — had given close to 5,000 yuan in counterfeit notes in “a deliberate and organised act by professional counterfeiters.”

The Indian booth too received a few counterfeit notes, officials said, adding the amount, in their case, was very small.

The event has generated wide attention on China’s microblogs, with many Internet users expressing embarrassment that scam artists took advantage of a charity drive.

But one former official on his microblog criticised the foreign missions for organising the event. He Keng, former deputy director of the National Bureau of Statistics, said the missions had “intended to disgrace us Chinese by holding a charity bazaar and they are shameless.”

“China doesn’t need the 330,000 yuan, not to mention it was Chinese people’s money,” he wrote, according to the Global Times.

Most of the responses to his post, however, criticised his “narrow-mindedness,” the newspaper said, with bloggers expressing sympathy with countries that saw a widely welcomed effort to build bridges — and, in the process, help a deserving local charity — unfortunately overshadowed by controversy.