Man ordered to repay donation after misusing funds for sick son


A man who misused money raised online to pay medical fees for his ill son was ordered by a Beijing court on Wednesday to return it.

The Chaoyang District People's Court ruled in favour of crowdfunding service Shuidichou after it sued a user in August last year, alleging the defendant, Mo Chunyi, had misused the funds.

Mo reached out to Shuidichou in April last year, five months after his then 7-month-old son was diagnosed with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder, according to the court verdict.

On the donation page, Mo, from Zhejiang province, set the target money to be raised at 400,000 yuan. Mo, 28, described himself as bankrupt and with debt of more than 200,000 yuan.

He wrote that the upcoming therapy for his son would cost him at least another 400,000 yuan, which is unaffordable for his working class family, the verdict said.

In about 30 hours, donations reached 153,136 yuan.

During the period, the platform received complaints claiming that Mo had a street-front property that he could rent out, which could generate considerable income.

But Shuidichou allowed Mo to withdraw the money after he explained that the property belonged to his father and added that his wife had been jobless until recently.

Mo's son died in July. Five days later, his wife reported to Shuidichou that Mo had lied about their financial status and none of the money raised from the platform had been used for therapy purposes.

In August, Shuidichou requested that Mo return the money, and then pressed charges after he failed to comply.

In the verdict, the court said Mo attempted to hide his genuine financial status and other forms of social assistance he had received when he solicited cyber-based financial assistance.

Mo also failed to use the money as promised, which constitutes a breach of contract, the court said.

The court ordered Mo to give all the money he raised back to Shuidichou and pay a fine calculated by bank interest.

It also advised the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which oversees charitable endeavours, and Shuidichou to roll out relevant rules to promote transparency for such fundraising efforts.

Mo's case is just one of many in recent years that have cast a spotlight on the increasingly popular trend of online crowdfunding campaigns, many of which involved limited disclosure of assets.

The recurring problem has fueled debates over how far such platforms should go to verify financial statuses of users seeking donations.

Wang Min, a judge with the court, said that Shuidichou and other similar services have offered the public more ways to demonstrate their charitable deeds, but a few problems have surfaced over time.

Among the problems were the lack of a screening process for participants and a third-party monitoring system, she said.

"I wish that through establishing rules, clarifying accountability and taking precautions against potential risks, we could create a healthier environment for crowdfunding efforts," she said.


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