-- Interview with Wang Yu, Chairman of Han Public Welfare Fund
Written and Photo taken by Zou Mo
Mr. Wang Daohan, who had just left the post of the Mayor of Shanghai, was elected Chairman of Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation (SSCLF) founded in 1986, and kept the post for nearly twenty years. He said: "The establishment of the SSCLF has special significance." While we cherish the memory of Soong Ching Ling, we must take practical actions to inherit and develop the children's culture and education causes and women and children’s welfare causes cared and engaged by Soong Ching Ling in her whole life." Mr. Wang Daohan's idea of public welfare and personal influence played an important role in the development of the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. More than 20 years later, Mr. Wang Yu，Wang Daohan’s son, set up a special public fund in SSCLF, which resulted a wonderful story of son inheriting his father in China public welfare sector. Not long ago, Mr. Wang Yu accepted an interview with the author at the SSCLF’s office building.
Q.: Your father, Mr. Wang Daohan, is an influential personage both at home and abroad. He has been universally acknowledged and respected by the people. What is the most important thing in his character? What's the biggest influence on you?
Wang: As a politician, my father is far-sighted. When he was elected the mayor of Shanghai in 1981, he systematically put forward the development of Pudong, and he is the earliest firm advocate of the development of Pudong. As
well as the accession to the WTO and bidding for World Expo, he also devoted a great deal of painstaking effort. While at home, he was a loving father. He used to educate us to remember that "Everyone is responsible for the fate of his country.", "Put morality on the priority", "Welldoing is just like the character of water, bring benefit to all things without fame struggling"...... He wrote these words, and I have hung them up in my office, encouraging myself. I think the essence of "Serve the country whole heartedly” he often said, has been fully reflected in his own words and deeds. If my father leaves his children any political legacy, that is his cultivation of our world outlook, value outlook and outlook on life, the core of the spiritual wealth we will enjoy in the whole life.
Q.: Can you tell me something that your father gave you deepest impression?
Wang: I was a naughty boy when I was young. I remember when I was in the primary school I had a fight with my classmate and broke his face. The classmate’s parents went to the municipal government shouting: "The mayor's son hit our son!" This kind of thing happened to someone else is not a big deal, but to me, the mayor’s son hitting is very scary. However, my father did not despise my classmate’s parent and he took me to the student’s home to apologize. In fact, in the eyes of the teacher, my father and other parents were the same. When his child was naughty, he was criticized too. He always send me to school and also attended a parent - teacher meeting in the school. By the time I was in junior high school, I was getting wiser. My father still walked me to school as usual, but before I got to school, I often asked him to go back. Later, my father said, "well, did I make you lose face when I sent you to school?" "My father and I were 62 years apart. When I was a child, my classmates would often joke when they saw my father, "Wang Yu, here is your grandpa!" In fact, I was worried that he would draw attention when he came to school. After all, he was an ordinary father, and he would naturally consider whether he was bothering me for his reasons. When my father retired from the mayor's position and soon assumed the president of the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits, his work was still very busy. I go to school early in the morning and he came home very late. So we didn’t have much time to meet each other every day. In my memory, my father seldom guided my homework though he was more than enough to help me with his knowledge. He always placed the country and the people on the first, and we fully understood it. Now I have been a father myself, and I feel more about his feelings and his choice of values.
Following in his father's footsteps, working for the public
Q.: During his tenure as SSCLF’s Chairman, Mr. Wang Daohan has rallied many friends at home and abroad with his charisma and influence. The SSCLF has played an active role in encouraging the whole society to pay attention to the cause of women and children and, in particular, to strengthen exchanges between the public welfare circles across the Taiwan straits. You are also enthusiastic about public welfare. Are you influenced by your father?
Wang. The SSCLF has carried out international children’s cultural exchange activities in various forms with the children's cultural organizations and schools of more than 30 countries and regions in the world and become one of the well-known public foundations. While considering the urban development, my father, as a former mayor, also attaches great importance to humanistic construction. As a result, SSCLF’s public welfare undertakings always focuses on the overall development and progress of the society. My father's feelings about his family and country have deeply influenced me, and I feel it is my duty to perpetuate my father's idea of public welfare. After the earthquake occurred in Wenchuan, Sichuan province in May 2008, we began to implement the education aid public welfare project. Dujiangyan in Sichuan province is the city Shanghai designated to aid, and we have established a full scholarship project in the middle schools in Dujiangyan to provide financial support for the outstanding students in the disaster areas through the cooperation with the Elite University of Malaysia. So far, we have assisted to train 2 doctoral students, 6 master students and more than 20 undergraduate students in Dujiangyan. These peasants’ children were not destroyed by natural disasters, and many of them were hired by some multinational enterprises when they graduated.
Q.: What is the particular meaning of “Han” Public Welfare Fund you set up? Could you tell me something about your idea of public welfare?
Wang: The word "Han" is taken from my father’s name, of course, in order to cherish the memory of my father. In fact, my father’s original name was Wang Dao Huai. Grandpa wanted him to make contributions to the governance of the river -- Huaihe. Later, he changed his name containing his aspirations and ideas. "Setting up noble moral sentiments and cultivating lofty ideals” is not only the spiritual wealth left by my father to his children, but also the original intention of the “Han” Public Welfare Fund. When it comes to the concept of public welfare, we hope that donors, including all directors of our fund, have a common understanding of public welfare, that is, doing public good is a very pure matter. While helping the disadvantaged to realize their dreams, we also hope donors and volunteers will realize their ideal of public welfare in the process of giving love. In a word, we hope that like-minded people will work together to do public welfare and promote social progress together.
Q.: Mr. Wang Daohan always believed that a lot of practices of the China Defense League and the China Welfare Institute, founded by Soong Ching Ling herself, deserve our study and inheritance. He hoped that SSCLF would extensively contact overseas Chinese, compatriots in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and all patriotic people in the world, and develop friendship with them and try to have support and cooperation with them. Mr. Wang Daohan's advocacy and practice has set an example to us. As the founder of “Han” Public Welfare Fund, how do you orientate the Fund?
Wang: At the conference of the founding of SSCLF in 1986, my father pointed out that the development of the welfare causes of women and children must depend on the whole society to do. At the third meeting of the SSCLF’s Second Trustee Board in January 2003, he once again stressed the need to strengthen exchanges across the Taiwan Straits while expanding international exchanges. It can be said that my father has long proposed the exchanges across Taiwan Straits in the public welfare field. Today, there are many foundations named after Soong Ching Ling in the world, in fact, it is inseparable with his advocacy to mobilize the global Chinese for the causes of public welfare. As my father's son, I don't want to deny that I do have a lot of special social connections. I have been thinking how to play the role of these human resources, better serve the public welfare and the society. We should see that Taiwan province’s development in some areas is earlier and faster than the mainland. For example, Taiwan has good tradition and experience in public welfare industry. We consider "blood is thicker than water" for compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. I think that public welfare cooperation can promote cross-strait exchanges. Through cross-strait exchanges, in turn, it can promote public welfare development, which is “Han” public welfare Fund would like to do.
Pay much attention to people's well-being, based on long-term development
Q.: Philanthropic fields are wide ranging, what is “Han” Public Welfare Fund’s own focus?
Wang: The Han Public Welfare Fund was established in July 2013. Every year we will choose some public welfare projects with special characteristics to give financial support, such as "From the mountains" -- a cultural heritage project, "Baby go home" project -- to help abducted children go home, a typical case of social welfare organizations promoting the government work. In addition to some projects implemented in the poor areas of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, we are now focusing on autistic children in Shanghai, which is determined after careful investigation and consideration. Why to choose autism project? Many people may not know that autism is a developmental disorder of the central nervous system in early childhood. According to an American statistic, the incidence of autism in children is 68:1. China had 4 autism cases per 10000 people in 1990s, up 25 times in the past 20 years. According to expert prediction that in the next 5 to 10 years there may be rapid growth. The cause of autism is not yet clear, and there is no effective treatment. Once a child suffers from autism, not only will the family bear a heavy burden, but also become a serious social problem. Autism is not simply a matter of the individual and family of patients, but also need more care of the whole society.
Q.: Recently, a news sparked heated debate, a child accompanied by a pair of parents was refused to board the plane because of the child with autism. As a matter of fact, our society is still not familiar with autism and is less concerned with and understanding of autism.
Wang: Since the reform and opening up, we have been busy with solving the problem of adequate food and clothing, and most of the public welfare projects remain in the material aspects, and lack of adequate attention to the spiritual aspects of the recipients. Even now, the government has no specific policies and measures for autism. So did Taiwan many years ago. They are mainly concerned with physical disability in vulnerable groups. With the development of society, they began to pay attention to mental disability. It is a great progress. That is to say, not only should we care about the physical health of the disadvantaged groups, but also their mental health, which should be paid attention to and explored by the public welfare organizations. After decades of practice, Taiwan has accumulated a relatively mature practice and experience in the early rehabilitation of children with autism, skills training and other aspects. Last summer, we organized a group of Shanghai autistic teachers and parents to Taiwan for study and investigation in autism education and rehabilitation, and everyone said it is a visit of great success.
Q.: You have studied in the United States for many years, what has impressed you most about the philanthropy in the United States? What are we worth learning from?
Wang: For the United States characterized by a strong middle class and a stable social foundation, most rich people have a relatively uniform sense of values. “Helping others out of good will” social atmosphere is very strong, it is easy to carry out public welfare activities, gathering a large number of volunteers. We should learn from their successful experiences. In English, there is a difference between "charity" and "public welfare". The former mainly helps the individual, while the latter is group-oriented and community-oriented. Therefore, we have always stressed that public welfare must focus on social progress at a higher level. I think the development of China's public welfare undertakings should be in progress step by step. We should allow detours and allow exploration. All these require time and support from all the society, including the active participation of government, scholars and entrepreneurs, as well as the dedication of all caring people at home and abroad.
Q.: In addition to public welfare, you have your own business, how do you deal with the relationship between public welfare and your business? What are your assumptions or plans for the future?
Wang: My own business is around the smart city construction, mainly in health care, education and social security field. Do business, of course, is to make money, do not make money, how to donate money? I feel honored that my own business is beneficial to the people's livelihood. There was a sad news that a migrant child with autism in Shanghai got lost, and he was found drowned a few days later in the cesspool of rural home. On the world autism day last year, we donated 500 anti-lost watches designed for autistic patients, which is my enterprise product. Care for children, first of all, is to provide them with a safe living environment. My career and public welfare are all around the people's livelihood and focus on social development. Not only do it now, but also do it unremittingly. There is a lot of room for public welfare, and there are many things waiting us to do. I want to use my social connections, play the role of the Internet, big data, do something other people have not done, and it is now just a start. We need like-minded partners to develop sustainable operation projects. Respect each donor's contribution, and spend every penny on the child who really needs help. Han public welfare fund, just like a small tree, will have deep roots and luxuriant leaves. I want to create a century - old shop in the public welfare field.
(From SSCLF’s Quarterly “Change” fourth issue in March, 2017)