The 22-year-old Shanghai Fisheries University student is now known for living way beyond the limits of average poor students.
Xiang was being supported by actress Sun Li, getting 500 yuan each month from her. She also paid his tuition of 6,000 yuan a year. But, while the 500 yuan might have been enough for most Chinese students, it wasn't for Xiang.
He kept asking Sun for more after being admitted to university last year. In fact, he asked her for 1,000 yuan in a 10-day period last December, Sun told the media. She had bought him a mobile phone and camera.
So Sun decided to stop covering Xiang's living costs but continues to pay the tuition. She said she wanted Xiang to be independent. Xiang countered by saying that, as a student officer, he needed more money for social activities.
Keep it quiet
This incident shone a light on the matter of making donations to financially disadvantaged students.
Ministry of Education statistics shows that by 2005 some 4 million students suffered from financial problems, accounting for 25 per cent of the student total.
Donations are bundled together with student loans to help financially-dependent students to cope with their life and study. Donation can take two forms: anonymous ones, where the donor remains unknown; and paired ones, where the student and benefactor keep regular contact with each other.
It's not perfectly clear which form is preferred by poor students. But, it seems that the anonymous form might offer more comfort, as, in fact, a survey of poor university students in Beijing indicates.
It shows that more than 70 per cent of the poor students getting donations do not want others to know who they are. Only 16 per cent said they were willing to reveal their identity, according to Beijing Star Daily.
One first-year student from Guangdong who received 500 yuan as a donation, said, "I don't want others to know I am a poor student. If I have to do that, I would rather not accept the donation."
However, Lin Guirui, a professor of psychology at Capital Normal University, encourages students to face up to their poverty. "It's not a shame to be poor," Lin said.
Lin went on to say that anonymity may be better at helping protect the self-esteem of students. But contact with the donor also has its advantage. The communication with a person who is often much more experienced in the world, "helps students grow up and learn more about society", Lin said.
Sun Li has found herself in the midst of a debate over how far to go with donations.
Shanghai Fisheries University: 上海水产大学
Various sources of funds for Chinese university students
SOME organizations play an important role in soliciting donations for students. Students can turn to them for help.
1. China Youth Development Foundation (中国青少年发展基金会) http://www.shangdaxuela.cn
2. China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (中国扶贫基金会) http://www.fupin.org.cn/
3. China Soong Ching Ling Foundation (中国宋庆龄基金会) http://www.sclf.org/
Repaying for education
A survey conducted by China Youth Development Foundation for 2005 showed 98 per cent of poor university students want to repay society. This chart shows the ways.
Public service: 49%
Volunteer work 25%
Donation 23 %
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