A Chinese charity foundation is to be investigated for its role in a problematic online donation program for poor children.
The Civil Affairs Bureau of Shenzhen City in south China announced Tuesday evening that it would look into the Aiyou Future Foundation, which ran the donation program with a Beijing company from Friday to Sunday.
The program, spread via popular messaging app WeChat, allowed users to donate money to a kid born on the donor's birthday. By clicking on a link and entering his or her date of birth, users were quickly matched with a kid whose photo, name, birthday and location was available.
The program chose 366 children as beneficiaries and donations for each were capped at 1,200 yuan (183 U.S. dollars).
The novel idea attracted instant attention, but it soon found that one child had two different dates of birth with different donors. At least six such cases were uncovered by donors.
The campaign had amassed more than 2.5 million yuan as of Sunday morning, when the organizers announced the end of donations.
Facing mounting doubts, the Beijing company, 0fenbei.com, said that all the children hail from registered poor families and their information was provided by local officials.
The company said the link, which was still under trial, was mistakenly posted by its staff and therefore there was erroneous information on the children.
The Aiyou foundation registered the program with the local civil affairs bureau before its launch.
However, the campaign was initiated via the WeChat account of the Beijing company which is ineligible to accept online public donations.
"It appears obviously illegal," said Zheng Ziyin with Lawsons Law Office.
In addition, some questioned the disclosure of the children's information, even if the organizers said they had obtained written consent from the children's guardians to make the information public.
"Do the kids and their parents really understand what the disclosure means to their lives?" asked Ye Ying with China Association of Fundraising Professionals, describing the act as privacy infringement.
Xinhua failed to reach the foundation for comment.