English subtitle of the beginning part:

A special group of rural migrant workers: miners, construction workers, tunnel workers and mental workers

Work and dust

They have contribute to the prosperity of the city with their sweat.

Pay for our nice home with their youth

They should be rewarded with happiness

But eventually their most luxurious dream is to be able to breathe

Their dreams were to feed their family

To pursue after the dreams, they left their homeland and stepped into the construction site and mines... (source: http://acopy.net/en/content/love-save-pneumoconiosis)

The dramatic changes that have taken place in China over the past few decades are well documented: economic expansion, wealth accumulation, global connectivity. Although Chinese does not have a strong tradition of philanthropy, China’s rising middle class has the increasing urge to give. However, as corruption scandals in state-owned philanthropy have been disclosed, government distrust also grows. It is in this environment that social-media driven campaigns, part charity part activism, such as Wang Keqin’s “Love Save Pneumoconiosis”, Deng Fei’s “Free Lunch,” and Rou Tangseng’s “Food Delivery Party” have spurred public support and raised millions of RMB to address important social issues that government failed to deal with. This paper will use the case study on Wang Keqin’s Love Save Pneumoconiosis(LSP) to explore the new model of civil society with the campaigns and the mechanisms they employ in combination with new media and e-commerce.

Case Study: Love Save Pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) - a project seeks to collect a victim list of Pneumoconiosis and provide assistance to them.

I. Background Overview

In early July 2009, Zhang Haichao, a 28 year-old villager from Henan, worked for several years at an abrasive materials factory in the capital city of Henan, voluntarily underwent an operation to open up his chest in order to prove he was suffering from the fatal black lung disease. Before the operation, he had been diagnosed as TB and his request for occupational disease compensation had been repeatedly declined. At the end of July, more than one hundred workers from Daozi in Hunan, all suffering from the black lung disease, staged a mass sit-in outside the Shenzhen municipal government demanding occupational illness compensation after years of pile-blasting and drilling on the city’s construction sites. Media reports on these two protests gradually brought migrant workers who are contracted with the black lung disease into public eyes.
most affected provinces in China

According to official figures, pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) is the most serious and most common occupational disease in China today. Till the end of 2010, 676,541 diagnoses and 149110 deaths have been reported; the death rate is 22.04%. In 2010, there were 23,812 new cases assessed, representing 87.4% of the occupational disease cases reported over the year. Compared to the reported 14,495 diagnoses in 2009, the increase was surprisingly as high as 39%. (Ministry of Health, 2010) The coal mining industry is the probably the single biggest cause of pneumoconiosis among China’s workforce, followed by quarrying, rock blasting and grinding, and also the jewellery industry in which workers are often exposed to high levels of silica dust while polishing gem stones. (China Labor Bulletin, 2005)

Worse still, most people affected by the disease are not covered by social health insurance. And under the current compensation system, workers who are not covered by the work-related injury insurance scheme can only receive a one-off compensation payment in "special circumstances." However, occupational diseases such as pneumoconiosis require constant care and expensive medication and, sooner or later, the money will run out. But the real tragedy is that the vast majority of migrant workers cannot even get a one-off compensation payment. Most workers never signed an employment contract with their employer or cannot locate their former employer after they get sick and as such they have to plead to the local government or charity organizations for assistance. That is why, the mass sit-in protest outside of Shenzhen Municipal Government happened.

II The charity organization: Love Save Pneumoconiosis

1. The founder

wang keqin.jpg
Wang Keqin source: LSP

Wang Keqin is China’s best-known investigative reporter. Over the past decade he has tackled scores of sensitive stories, from systematic corruption in China’s taxi industry to the spread of HIV-AIDS through careless and unnecessary blood transfusions. He was forced out of his previous newspaper, the China Economic Times, in 2011 after a spate of hard-hitting reports, including a 2010 expose about the mishandling of tainted vaccines in Shanxi province. In 2013, Wang is once again on the move. Editors of the Economic Observer pressured Wang into resigning under pressure from authorities for a series of hard-hitting reports apparently in connection with its unrestrained coverage of flooding which killed at least 77 people in Beijing last summer and other investigative reports.

2. Motive to set up LSP

Wang Keqin was working as the head of the investigative bureau of the Chinese newspaper The Economic Times, when a journalist at the paper uncovered the story of Gulang, a rural county in Gansu province where 300 locals had contracted so-called black lung disease from working in a local coal mine. None had received compensation.

In an effort to aid the miners, Wang stumbled onto an innovative approach to fundraising – microblogging. Wang’s first 150 character microblog post simply listed the name of one of the villagers, the date he contracted the disease and a bank account in the name of a another villager. Within days, a group of volunteers had arranged to travel to Gulang for a dinner with the village’s 300 sufferers.

In June 2011, Wang co-founded the organization “Love Save Pneumoconiosis” with the China Social Assistance Foundation - an official charity fund.

3. Micro-charities in China

i. The challenge of legitimacy

Strictly speaking, there are no charities in China, as the government does not provide a legal definition for a charitable organization. Instead, it uses “social organization” as a category to cover all non-profit groups, from grassroots NGOs to local chambers of commerce. Just over 440,000 of these “social organizations” had registered with the government by the end of last year, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the government department that regulates charities. But many more NGOs–an estimated three or four million–are unregistered.

Most of these unregistered organizations are not allowed to ask the public for funds. That right is limited to the 1,300 or so officially recognized “public foundations,” as well as any “social organizations” that officially register their activities as programs of these public foundations. Only a small fraction of Chinese NGOs have registered and are therefore permitted to raise funds, according to Karla Simon, a professor at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law who co-authored a study on Chinese civil society for the World Bank and the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2009.

In the LSP case, when Wang started soliciting funds; he couldn’t open an account because he wasn’t associated with a public foundation. He instead directed donors to send their money directly to a bank account owned by a farmer in Gansu who lived near several pneumoconiosis sufferers. The man received around 8,000 yuan, but refused to transfer the money to other villagers. “It was a massive headache,” Wang said. It was the Internet companies Sohu and Tencent that finally offered to connect Wang with a public foundation. In 2011, Wang finally managed to register under apublic fund - China Social Assistance Foundation, and sincethen has been able to publicly solicit cash.

Registering with a public foundation brings a new set of headaches. “We have to get approval from the fund every time we want to withdraw money,” Wang said. The organizations also pay a five percent fee to the funds on any income they collect.

ii. Overcoming challenges of the traditional civil society model in China

Philanthropy in China is developing fast. As more and more Chinese enter the middle and upper classes — Forbes this year listed 115 billionaires in China, up from 64 last year — some are looking to do good through charity donations. The Sichuan earthquake in 2008 led to a rise in civic consciousness, and the next year the government recorded $8 billion in donations.
However, an online scandal posed a detrimental impact on state-owned large charities. In June 2012, a Sina Weibo user named Guo Meimei, who listed her employer as a branch of the Red Cross Society of China, posted a series of photos showing her posing with expensive sports cars and designer handbags. The photos seemed to confirm what many Chinese suspected: charities like the Red Cross refused to publicize their incomes because they were misusing donor’s money. It turned out Guo had lied about her Red Cross affiliation, but the damage was done. Genuine scandal soon followed, when news broke that the Henan Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a children’s organization and one of China’s largest charities, converted into luxury apartments a plot of land set aside for a youth activity center.
An image from the blog of Guo Meimei
An image from the blog of Guo Meimei

The controversies may have helped the small charities while damaging the big ones. A branch of the Red Cross in Shenzhen reported that donations fell by 97 percent in the month immediately following the Guo Meimei scandal, while another branch in central China reported a 94 percent decrease.

Unlike traditional charities, civil charities like LSP keep fully-documented record of the money spent and publish online on a regular basis. According to Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) Associate Dean and Professor of Marketing Sun Baohong, an expert on social media, microblogs have produced a more transparent model for Chinese charities. “The transparent nature of social media has enhanced fundraising, by dramatically reducing donors’ concerns about the inappropriate use of funds,” she said.

4. Combining social media and e-commerce for the online campaign
weibo account 1.png
Wang Keqin and LSP's weibo account

In LSP case, social media and e-commerce are used in innovative ways to not only generate funding, but more importantly, capitalize on the power of Weibo’s surrounding gaze to shine light on dark corners of Chinese society. These two powerful tools allowed Wang Keqin and his team to reach millions of ordinary citizens and inspire many of them to take action, either by making a small financial donation or by volunteering in the relief effort. LSP received a huge boost late in the evening of 28 June 2011 when the movie star Yao Chen, who is probably the most influential celebrity on Sina Weibo with over 40 million followers, retweeted a link to the organization’s video calling for action. Within two weeks, donations had increased 80-times from just 2,500 yuan ($405) to 200,000 yuan($32258).
Chen Kun hiking with Wang Keqin for LSP advocacy
Sina Weibo remains to be the major social media platform LSP uses for online advocate. The official LSP weibo account and Wang Keqin’s personal weibo account are on the front page of LSP’s official website The two weibo accounts have 22,012 and 494,245 followers respectively as dated on Dec 8th, 2013. Besides Yao Chen, some other social celebrities also came to their support. Chen Kun, a famous movie
star in China, was moved by Wang Keqin and his course, donated nearly 350,000 Yuan (nearly $60,000) and helped with advocating LSP. Weibo also serves as the platform to help with LSP’s financial transparency. Financial statements on every donation and expense are published for public scrutiny through Sina weibo on a quarterly basis.
Taobao- the e-commerce website- is the major platform for LSP to accept donations. In LSP’s Taobao shop, individuals could choose to donate from 1 yuan ($0.16) to more than 100 yuan ($16.13). To LSP’s estimation, 1 yuan donation can extend one patient’s life by 5 hours.

5. Organization chart and rescuing process
org chart 1.png
Volunteers are helping patients fill registration form of LSP

To minimize administrative cost, LSP has only two full-time employees and is mostly supported by volunteers. The foundation has over 1500 volunteers who travel to remote areas across China to help patients and their families. Most of them are part-time volunteers who come from all walks of life, from journalists to college students.

Rescuing process:


6. Project Impact

i. Direct impact

  • Dated September 30, 2013, LSP has raised up to 11224196.82 Yuan ($1,810,354), of which, 2,450,000 yuan ($395,161) was contributed by Central Government Spending. In 2013, LSP was chosen by the central government as the ‘pilot project for Migrant Works contracted to black lung disease’.
  • Dated November 1, 2013, 875 patients received treatment from over 14 provinces received medical treatment through LSP.
  • Dated November 1, 2013, LSP provided educational support to 472 children from the patients’ families.

ii. Policy impact

  • In July 2012, Hunan provincial health department accepted LSP Hunan division’s proposal to include black lung disease into the New Rural Cooperative Medical System (NCMS) in pilot counties
  • In August 15, 2012, LSP’s Sichuan division signed MOU with Sichuan Ebian Yi Autonomous County’s civil affairs bureau to set up a specified account for black lung disease patients. No less than 80% of LSP’s medical expense on patients is reimbursed to the account for future recuing activities.
  • State Council pledged to intensify the effort on occupational diseases ‘prevention and rescuing in its recently released (December 3, 2013) “sustainable development planning on resource-dependent cities(Year 2013-2020)"

For Wang Keqin, however, simply providing charity and generating public support was not enough:

"Our first objective is to join forces to provide relief and treatment. But then we need to urge local governments to provide that relief and treatment. Why do we take this approach? It is because in China the government has the most absolute control over resources. The donations that we rely on from citizens over the Internet are a drop in the bucket. For us to save people is not the ultimate goal. It is rather to create the pressure of public opinion, and in the end force the government to fulfil its responsibilities. "

Across China, more and more local governments have now responded to citizen initiatives and media coverage with practical measures such as arranging for medical exams and assessing the medical condition of victims within their jurisdiction. They have in some cases provided funds for the medical expenses and welfare benefits of workers with pneumoconiosis.

III. Conclusion

Micro-philanthropy organizations in China such as LSP developed new mechanisms of advocacy and fundraising with a lowered participation threshold for ordinary private citizens. They have also introduced effective ways for the public to hold social sector organizations accountable for their funds. More importantly, these organizations helped in transforming people’s mindset toward taking on more social responsibilities. However, the initial success of most these campaigns derive from personal influence and charisma of Big Vs on weibo (celebrities with a huge number of followers), the longevity of these organizations depends on to what extend will they be able to detach from their founders and evolve into a more sustainable management model.


1. Pneumoconiosis top on list of occupational illness, Xinhua News Agency, 2008
2. A New Civil Society Model in China? Civil China, 2013
3. China’s pneumoconiosis victims take drastic steps in their search for compensation. China Labour Bulletin, 2009
4. China journalist 'quit' after official pressure. Agence France-Presse, 2013
5. Microsteps Online for Chinese Charities. Asia Sentinel, 2012 http://www.asiasentinel.com/society/microsteps-online-for-chinese-charities/
6. Civil Society in China. Karla W. Simon, Oxford University Press, 2013
7. An Online Scandal Underscores Chinese Distrust of State Charities. New York Times, 2011
8. Love SavePneumoconiosis http://www.daaiqingchen.org/
9. Wang Keqin (王克勤), ―公益救援模式的探索与反思‖ (An Exploration and Reflection on Charitable Relief Models), 新知沙龙 (New Knowledge Salon))