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

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HeungKong Group's website website
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
  • 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.

ALSO READ: China Charges Rights Activist Li Xiaoling Over Tiananmen Massacre T-Shirt and Friends Who ‘Sheltered’ Her

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)

Next Story

Google Claims It Has “No Plans” To Relaunch A Search Engine in China

Technology companies have recently been a favorite target of many members of the U.S. Congress, who have criticized them over a wide range of issues such as privacy, work in China and allowing foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

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Google
The Chinese flag is seen near the Google sign at the Google china headquarters in Beijing, China. VOA

The United States’ top general said on Thursday that the Chinese military was benefiting from the work Alphabet Inc’s Google was doing in China, where the technology giant has long sought to have a bigger presence.

“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit,” he said.

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Lawmakers and Google employees have raised concerns the company would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies if it re-enters the Asian nation’s search engine market. Pixabay

“Frankly, ‘indirect’ may be not a full characterization of the way it really is, it is more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

Last year Google said it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project.

In June, Google said it would not renew a contract to help the U.S. military analyze aerial drone imagery when it expires, as the company sought to defuse an internal uproar over the deal.

At the same time, Google said it has “no plans” to relaunch a search engine in China, though it is continuing to study the idea.

During the hearing, Republican Senator Josh Hawley sharply criticized the tech company, referring to it as “a supposedly American company.”

FILE - Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a hearing of a Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, March 6, 2019.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a hearing of a Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Technology companies have recently been a favorite target of many members of the U.S. Congress, who have criticized them over a wide range of issues such as privacy, work in China and allowing foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Lawmakers and Google employees have raised concerns the company would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies if it re-enters the Asian nation’s search engine market.

Also Read: India and Pakistan Threaten to Release Missiles at Each Othe

Asked about Dunford’s comments, Google referred to previous statements.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has previously said the company has invested in China for years and plans to continue to do so, but that the company also was continuing to work with the U.S. government on projects in health care, cybersecurity and other fields. (VOA)