Taiwan Buddhist foundation to withdraw controversial investments

Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, an international humanitarian organisation, sent a team to Bandaragama for a three-day mission in October 2011.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation yesterday held a press conference to clarify claims that the foundation holds funds of companies whose businesses oppose the foundation's principles.

The press conference is Tzu Chi's second public explanation in two days, and was held again at the Jing Si Abode in Hualien by the foundation's American Division Deputy Chief Executive William Keh.

Keh addressed and explained the rumours regarding the foundation's possession of the so-called barrier funds from companies that predominantly derive a large amount of their revenues from the tobacco, gambling, defence & weapons, and alcohol industries.

Reportedly a number of local public figures such as television pundit Dennis Peng, Taipei City Independent Committee Against Corruption member Hsu Chin-huang and internet financial blogger Li Po-feng had took to their Facebook to alleged that Tzu Chi had been investing a substantial amount of its donations in a variety of funds.

Li claimed that the foundation is particularly diverse when investing in the United States of America.

Li said that Tzu Chi holds barrier funds from companies such as oil and gas company British Petroleum, wholesaler Walmart, agrochemical company Monsanto, tobacco company Altria and weapons manufacturer Boeing.

Tzu Chi Explains Position

In response to the claims of Hsu, Keh said that the investment standard of the foundation is based upon the American stock market index Standard & Poor's 500. Keh said that all investments are handled by professionals so that Tzu Chi's fund would not deplete exponentially.

Keh also explained that the Tzu Chi's US division is a 501(c) organisation registered non-profit foundation in America, and that its finances are independent from its Taiwan division. All donations are raised in the US and only used in the US, Keh added.

Keh went on to explain that it is common practice in US charities to preserve its funds through investments. The board of directors of Tzu Chi US hired professionals to invest part of its donations in to fixed deposits, bonds and funds, but never into stocks.

Should companies which are deemed unsuitable or contradictory to Tzu Chi's principle of compassion and charity Keh said, the foundation will explain the problem to their financial managers and withdraw from investing in such companies.

Foundation Blamed for Pundit's Resignation

In related news, Peng, anchor and political pundit, claimed that he and his wife were pressured to resign from their news show because Tzu Chi had applied pressure to the National Communications Commission to contain the growing criticisms to the foundation.

Peng claimed that the foundation had strong armed him and his wife into resignation as their show had been the most vocal toward the foundation's faults. The pundit claimed in his social media that the Tzu Chi might shut his show, but not the mouths of him and the general public.