A Chinese billionaire couple has been condemned on social media for not supporting tertiary education in their home country after creating a scholarship for disadvantaged students to study at elite institutions abroad.
Shiyi Pan and Xin Zhang, the husband-and-wife duo behind real estate giant Soho China, announced last week they would be establishing a $15 million (€9 million) scholarship for Chinese students to study at US Ivy League institution, Harvard University.
The couple has said they plan to extend their philanthropy to $100-million worth of scholarships at other top universities around the globe.
However, the first stage of the of the programme has already received a deluge of criticism from internet users who said that it would be better spent on students planning to study in China.
In addition to being one of China’s wealthiest individuals, Pan is also one of the country's most popular bloggers, and has nearly 17 million followers on social network Sina Weibo, where many users have questioned the motives behind the couple's donation.
One Sina Weibo user remarked: “They despise their own country and people”. Another user commented: “Taking Chinese people's money and giving it to people who are able to study in America – what a great definition of 'poverty'!"
Other users defended the decision by the couple, who have also established a foundation to support education in rural areas of China. "A lot of people are saying Pan Shiyi and his wife spent $15 million to buy their son a ticket to Harvard. However, we shouldn't find fault with how they decide to spend their own money," wrote one.
In response to the criticism, Zhang said on her Weibo account good education will be reserved for the wealthy unless disadvantaged students are funded. "Our scholarships will change this phenomenon," said Zhang.
According to the Institute of International Education, Chinese students account for the majority of international students in the US.