ByteDance Founder Donates US$77 Million Amid China Billionaires’ Charity Push


The founder of TikTok owner ByteDance will give 500 million yuan (US$77.35 million) to the Chinese city of Longyan for education, city authorities said on Tuesday, the latest charitable donation by a tech business leader as the sector comes under scrutiny.

Zhang Yiming’s donation to his hometown in Fujian province will go towards the “Fangmei Foundation,” named after Zhang’s grandmothers, to help teachers with advanced education, to support vocational education and improve technical education infrastructure, the city’s education bureau said in a statement.

The foundation will focus on rural areas in the region, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, adding that Zhang had visited the city this month and spoken to teachers.

Several tech industry billionaires have recently been keen to support charities, especially in the education sector, amid an unprecedented crackdown on their sector.

The founder of food delivery giant Meituan, Wang Xing, this month donated about US$2 billion worth of Meituan shares to a Wang Xing Fund to promote education and scientific research.

Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma, who all but vanished from public view after an October speech that triggered the suspension of affiliate Ant’s US$37 billion IPO, surfaced briefly in January, participating in an online ceremony for rural teachers organised by Ma’s charitable foundation.

Both Alibaba and Meituan face scrutiny from antitrust authorities.

China’s market regulator fined Alibaba a record 18 billion yuan (US$2.75 billion) for abuse of its dominant market position, and announced an antitrust investigation into Meituan in April.

China has in recent months been cracking down on the private, after-school tutoring sector, with President Xi Jinping saying schools should be responsible for learning, rather than tutoring companies.

Last month, Zhang unexpectedly announced he would step down as ByteDance CEO, saying he would focus more on the company’s long-term strategies and social responsibilities.

Zhang in 2019 donated US$10 million to San Francisco-based Minerva Schools and US$14 million to the Innovation Fund for Nankai University in Tianjin.

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