The Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Tuesday that an online charity program is suspected of violating clauses in the Charity Law over the way it released information.
The online charity program, called We Share a Birthday, began appearing on WeChat on Friday. It was launched by 0fenbei.com, a poverty alleviation website based in Beijing, and Shenzhen-based Aiyou Future Foundation.
It matches donors with poor children born on the donor's birthday, with most people contributing 1 yuan to the child with whom they were matched.
The program attracted widespread attention from netizens and had raised more than 2.55 million yuan (0,000) when the organizers put an end to the program on Sunday morning. They promised the money would be used as tuition for 2,130 poverty-stricken children.
However, some netizens soon found that the pictures of some youngsters in need appeared in multiple profiles, and many suspected that the program was a fraud.
The ministry said it would strengthen supervision of online charities and make the complaint system smoother.
In response to netizens' suspicions, the civil affairs bureau in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, said on Sunday afternoon that it would start an investigation into the program and would make any findings public in a timely manner.
On Monday, the bureau said its officials had talked with the secretary-general of the Aiyou Future Foundation, requesting it stop the program and hand in detailed documents about the program, including reports on each donation received.
Wang Li, founder and CEO of 0fenbei.com, blamed the mix-up on human error.
The charity program was supposed to be launched on Sunday, he said, but staff members had mistakenly shared a trial version on Friday that did not contain information for all the children.
The program's database should contain the information and photos of 366 children from Yunnan province, Wang said. All the children are indeed living in poverty, and their parents agreed that the charity program could use their pictures, he added.
When the company began receiving complaints, it realized its mistake, he said, adding that the program had spread much faster than expected.