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Jack Ma feeling pressure of ‘forced donation’

The word “forced donation”, or bijuan in Chinese, is a familiar one for China’s social media users.  Recently, the word topped China’s social media again as many people on Sina Weibo, China’s largest social media, calling for Jack Ma, the owner of Alibaba Group and the second richest man in China, to donate money to help those affected by the warehouse blasts at Tianjin port which took place a week ago.

Many people commented under Ma’s latest Weibo posts published in July, saying that “why don’t you donate money to Tianjin?”, and “since you are one of the richest men, you should donate 100 million yuan ($15,640,000).” Some even remarked that “if you don’t donate, I will never ever shop on Taobao (China’s largest online shopping portal controlled by Alibaba).”

The storm came after many Chinese celebrities, including Jackie Chen, Fan Bingbing and Angela Baby donated money for the disaster.

It is reported that Jackie Chen donated 3 million yuan ($469,200), and Fan 1 million yuan ($156,400) to the families of the firemen who died during the blast.

The movie company that made Chinese blockbuster Monster Hunt has also announced a 5 million yuan ($782,000) donation.

However, those who tried to force Ma to donate money were soon met with criticism from other Weibo users who called their behavior as “moral hijacking”.

“Philanthropy is based on morality. We can hope that a person becomes a philanthropist, especially those extremely rich people, but we do not have the right to ask someone to become a philanthropist,” according to an article released by on Monday, “Charity is not based on one’s fortune. While rich people have the right not to do charitable work, poor people can chose to do so.”

“Ma’s money is earned through his own hard work, instead of a pie falling from the sky. He has the freedom to decide whether to donate the money or not,” one Weibo user named @任性老妈 argued.

Early in July 2014, a poor Chinese college student named Mo Xiangsong, who suffered from leukemia, accompanied by his 14 classmates from Chengdu Vocational College of Agricultural Science and Technology, held roses and went down on their knees asking a billionaire to lend him 1 million yuan ($156,400) to cover for medical bills. This soon became a hot topic on China’s social media, according to China Daily, with many of China’s major newspapers joining the discussion. People’s Daily remarked on its microblog that forcing people to donate money is almost the equivalent of robbing them.

The People’s Daily has joined the debate again this time by publishing a commentary on Tuesday, which noted that “philanthropy needs care and appeal.” It added that the online “forced donation” debate about Jack Ma is not the first time a tycoon is being discussed over the philanthropy dilemma, and will not be the last time, either.

According to Hurun’s 2014 Philanthropy List, Jack Ma is the country’s top donor with 14.5 billion yuan in donations. Ma has also been honored as the “most generous philanthropist in China.”

In July 2015, Alibaba Group signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Tianjin Municipal Government. According to the assignment, Alibaba Group will set Tianjin as a major area for its strategic development in the future. Ma said that Alibaba Group will help Tianjin to cultivate more innovative enterprises, which will bring energy to its local economic development.

A writer named Geng Zhige published an article on the official Wechat account of Global Times defending Ma, saying “Jack Ma is a low-key person,” and that “he could not just remain indifferent.”

So far, Jack Ma hasn’t made any remarks on the recent discussion.

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