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One of China’s Richest Women Zhai Meiqin Hopes to Keep Driving Culture of Philanthropy

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The story of Zhai Meiqin's selection as a winner of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy is told on the HeungKong Group website, VOA
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  • Zhai Meiqin is one of China’s richest women and president of the privately owned Heoungkong Group Ltd
  • Zhai broke new ground in 2005 by establishing China’s first nonprofit charitable foundation
  • Zhai, 53, was one of nine philanthropists named Thursday as winners of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy

London, June 25, 2017: After starting work in a hotel kitchen, Zhai Meiqin began selling furniture and built a billion-dollar conglomerate, but she took great pride in being recognized this week for driving a new phenomenon in China: philanthropy.

Zhai, one of China’s richest women and president of the privately owned Heoungkong Group Ltd., said she never forgot her humble upbringing in Guangzhou in southern China, where her father was an architect and her mother worked in a store.

This made her determined to help others, and she started donating to charity shortly after setting up the business with her husband in 1990.

As their business grew, taking in real estate, financial investment and health care, Zhai broke new ground in 2005 by establishing China’s first nonprofit charitable foundation.

Since then, the HeungKong Charitable Foundation has helped an estimated 2 million people, by funding 1,500 libraries, providing loans for women to start businesses, and funding orphans, single mothers, handicapped children and the elderly.

“I realized there were a lot of poor people in China and this drove me to earn more money so I could help them,” said Zhai, 53, who was one of nine philanthropists named Thursday as winners of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

Zhai and her husband, Liu Zhiqiang, whose HeungKong Group with 20,000 staffers has made them worth about $1.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine, are known for being leaders of the culture of philanthropy in China.

Their foundation was listed as number 001 by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Zhai said at the end of 2015 there were 3,300 registered nonprofit charitable foundations in China.

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Next generation

“By setting up the foundation, I wanted to encourage other people, other entrepreneurs, to also donate to charity,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview from Guangzhou translated by her daughter.

“Now I want to make sure that the next generation continues this culture of philanthropy in China,” she added, with two of her four children taking an active role in her foundation.

The other philanthropists to win the Carnegie Medal — which was established in 2001 and is awarded every two years — came from around the globe.

The list included India’s education-focused Azim Premji, Canadian-born social enterprise pioneer Jeff Skoll and American-Australian lawyer and former World Bank Group President James Wolfensohn.

The winners were chosen by a committee made up of seven people representing some of the 22 Carnegie institutions in the United States and Europe. (VOA)

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A City in Northern China Bans Christmas Sales

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Places to visit this Christmas

A city in northern China has banned Christmas sales and decorations to keep the city clean for an upcoming award function.

The authorities in Langfang, however, clarified the move is not targeted at Christmas.

An officially atheist country, China dissuades its people from celebrating Christmas, calling it a Western religious culture which has a wrong influence on its youth.

Christianity is one of the five recognised religions in China.

The Urban Management Bureau of Langfang in north China’s Hebei province issued a notice on Sunday that bans Christmas trees on streets, the Chinese state media reported.

Stores are not allowed to put up posters, banners or light boxes about Christmas sales. Outdoor performances to celebrate the holiday or promote sales are also prohibited.

City peddlers are forbidden from selling Christmas related items like Christmas apples, Santa costumes and stockings or Christmas trees, the Global Times said.

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Chinese city bans Christmas sales. VOA

All bureau employees are required to be on duty from December 23 to Christmas Day to inspect Christmas-theme promotions, the notice said.

The notice, which has been circulating online, said that religious activities in public spaces such as parks and squares around Christmas must be closely monitored and reported to senior authorities.

An employee from the bureau, who demanded anonymity, told the Global Times on Monday that the action was not targeted at Christmas but was an effort to pass the annual rating of “National Civilized Cities”.

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The National Civilized City award, presented every three years based on annual ratings, represents the highest honour to a city as it has strict standards in a variety of aspects, including the city’s social development, economy, infrastructure construction and public services.

“Managing roadside stalls and migrant vendors is our routine work. Christmas is a time when such illegal activities are prevalent,” the employee said, noting that retailers usually seize on the holiday to sell goods, sometimes in unlawful ways.

Last year, a Chinese university Shenyang had banned Christmas celebration on the campus. (IANS)