Free lunch

Chinese citizens take a lot of heat for not donating to charitable causes or opening their pockets in times of disaster and great need. But a recent report that surfaced on the Internet here goes a long way toward explaining why many people refuse to give money to charity. It’s a simple matter of mistrust.

After a copy of the restaurant bill appeared online, a branch office of the Shanghai Red Cross admitted that it spent $1,500 on a luncheon for 17. That works out to about $88 per person for a meal in a city where a person can get a big lunch for less than $5 and a very nice meal can be had for $20 or less. Food prices are increasing in China, but it takes a little work to get to $88 per person. Government officials and business people expect expensive business meals, often inflating the bill with alcohol and exotic foods.

The government-run Red Cross insists that its meal came from its administrative budget, not donations, and it will repay the cost. Meanwhile, China ranks near last among nations for charitable giving.