Newspaper article China Post

Tzu Chi Needs More Transparency in Charity Work

Newspaper article China Post

Tzu Chi Needs More Transparency in Charity Work

Article excerpt

The Tzu Chi Foundation earlier this week called off a controversial development project in Taipei after days of fierce wrangling between the charity group's supporters and critics. But the move has not really settled the dispute, with many questions still left unanswered.

The project sought to build what Tzu Chi called a disaster relief center on a piece of protected land in Taipei's Neihu district.

Residents of the area have been fighting against the project for about a decade, arguing that the site is needed for flood-control purposes.

But the Buddhist group argued that the area was long damaged by illegal activities, and should no longer deserve the status of being a piece of protect land. The construction project would turn it into a facility to serve the citizens of Taipei should disaster strike.

The row had been limited mostly between the area's residents and Tzu Chi until Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je made some passing remarks about it a few weeks ago. He said it was "strange" to develop protected land.

One of Tzu Chi's staunch defenders, Buddhist Master Chao Hui, then reacted to the mayor's remarks, warning Ko that he would meet his "karma" for bad-mouthing the charity group.

The venerable Buddhist nun also challenged Ko to confront Islamic State terrorists in the same way he did Tzu Chi.

Chao Hui, a militant university professor known for her outspokenness in support of social justice, made a strategic mistake there.

Since taking office, Ko has been put under close scrutiny from the media and the nation in general for almost anything he says and does.

Chao Hui's angry condemnation actually rallied support for Ko, calling attention to the Neihu project - and worse still, the charity foundation itself.

Suddenly the nation realized that it did not really understand Tzu Chi, whose operations might not be as transparent as it would like them to be.

People knew that Tzu Chi was big, but not only until these past several days has the public been able to get to a more tangible idea of its size and influence. …

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