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Vancouver charity has abrupt end to work in China funding scholarships

The charity said its work in China has ended and, in the future, it may include program offerings for young women from other countries in Asia

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A Vancouver-based charity that provides scholarships for young women in rural parts of China and has had support from some high-profile CEOs and Canadian companies since it was founded in 2005 recently announced an abrupt end to its work in the country, citing circumstances out of its control.

The founder and president of Educating Girls of Rural China (EGRC), Ching Tien, said in a recent statement that “this situation was unexpected.”

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Reached by phone by Postmedia News and asked if she could clarify or give more details on what exactly happened, Ching said she had no comment.

The statement said the charity may, in future, include program offerings for young women from other countries in Asia.

Ching started the charity in 2005 with the goal of raising money to award scholarships to girls from rural regions of western China. She grew up in Beijing and moved to Vancouver in 1983.

For more than 20 years, she owned and managed an art gallery and was actively involved in the city’s arts communities.

She got the idea to start the charity at a Vancouver Children’s Choir fundraiser for Unicef’s Go Girls! initiative for educating girls in Africa.

In its first year, Ching raised $27,000 through an art auction and concert and was able to pay for 300 girls in rural Gansu province to attend elementary school for a year and help 27 women go to university.

Since then, in the last 18 years, over 2,000 young women and girls have gone through EGRC’s programs, which now include scholarships for global academic and professional studies, spanning master’s programs, summer language and leadership courses.

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Canadian companies that operate in China and the Canadian Embassy in Beijing participated in the charity’s fundraising efforts. In Vancouver, the charity was also known for attracting a wide swath of supporters in the local community, hosting events such as dim sum lunches.

The charity’s board of directors is co-chaired by Don Kayne, CEO and president of Canfor Corp., and Jane Milner, former CEO of the North Shore Credit Union of B.C., which is now known as BlueShore Financial.

The charity’s website says that starting in 2020 EGRC registered in China as an independent charity.

The statement said that the girls who are currently in EGRC’s programs will be funded for the 2023-24 school year by the Qing Qing Development Centre, which it described as an independent Chinese charity established in 2020.

It also said that in future, the charity’s current programs in China will be solely managed by the Chinese charity.

“As a Canadian citizen, I do not have a legal role within it, and I am no longer involved and responsible for any of the programs it manages,” said Ching in the statement.

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According to its filing to the Canada Revenue Agency, the charity, which is registered as the Canadian Society for Educating Girls of Rural China, had receipted donations of over $470,000 and non-receipted donations of over $21,000. It spent over $352,000 on programs outside of Canada and over $83,000 on management and administration, according to filings to the CRA for the period ending in August 2022.

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China who continues to discuss the relationship between China and Canada, was based in Beijing from 2009 to 2012. He said he was sorry to see the situation involving the EGRC.

“I do know that Beijing has been increasingly inclined to force out foreign NGOs despite the evident good they are doing for the people of China. EGRC stands out for its work on behalf of young women in rural China, people who would be forgotten and left behind were it not for Ching Tien. This is a real tragedy.”

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