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    Leukemia Patients Lose $1.5 Million in Charity Scam

    Victims accuse Hebei hospital of conspiring with donation matching program.

    More than a hundred leukemia patients at a top-tier hospital in northern China have lost over 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) in a charity scam, Beijing Youth Daily reported Saturday.

    According to the report, Hebei Yanda Lu Daopei Hospital had recommended patients to apply for a charity program that promised to match or exceed their donations — for example, if a patient deposited 80,000 yuan into the program, they could see 130,000 yuan after a period of two to eight weeks.

    The program was initiated by Liu Jian, founder of the Same Dream Charity Fund, and though donations were to be deposited into his personal bank account, patients felt reassured because staff at the hospital had suggested the program and other patients had reported receiving money from the fund with no issues.

    But since Wednesday, patients have been unable to reach Liu, and by Friday afternoon, the amount of missing funds had reportedly exceeded 10 million yuan. Local police have launched an investigation into the case.

    Many desperate families had participated in Liu’s program because they were no longer able to afford essential medical treatment. One father from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China told Beijing Youth Daily that he had sold his farmland for 80,000 yuan and borrowed money to pay for his son’s leukemia treatment at the Hebei hospital in 2015. But in May of this year, his son’s condition deteriorated, and treatment cost the family close to 180,000 yuan. In despair, the father turned to Liu, whose program he recalled the doctor recommending back in 2015. But with Liu’s recent disappearance, the family is now in greater financial distress and cannot afford to even pay for the son’s prescriptions.

    On Thursday, Hebei Yanda Lu Daopei Hospital denied that it had ever cooperated with Liu’s charity fund, and on Sunday, it published an announcement saying that it would continue to treat patients who had been scammed and could not pay. The hospital did not immediately respond to Sixth Tone’s interview request on Tuesday.

    Liu established the Same Dream Charity Fund in 2014, under the auspices of the New Sunshine Charity Foundation, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to leukemia that owns the largest private bone marrow bank on the Chinese mainland. But New Sunshine Charity Foundation stated on its Weibo microblog on Sunday that it had terminated its relationship with the Same Dream Charity Fund more than two years ago. The foundation was not aware of Liu’s donation matching program, it said in its statement, though Liu had included the foundation’s name in advertising for the program.

    Without official registration as a charity in its own right, the Same Dream Charity Fund would not be authorized to publicly raise money or provide donation matching programs under China’s latest charity law, which came into effect on Sept. 1, 2016.

    Donation matching has become familiar to the Chinese public in recent years through large online giving events such as internet giant Tencent’s annual 99 Charity Day. But Zhang Xinnian, a lawyer at Jingshi Law Firm in Beijing, told Sixth Tone that Liu’s program is not lawful because the donors were also the beneficiaries, and because deposits were going into his personal bank account.

    “Since the amount of money involved is huge,” Zhang said, “Liu could be sentenced to more than 10 years in jail.”

    Editor: Qian Jinghua.

    (Header image: A boy with leukemia visits a hospital in Qingdao, Shandong province, Jan. 28, 2016. VCG)