Organizers of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo are to return a 200-million-yuan (29.3 million U.S. dollars) donation from a tobacco company after health experts raised objections to the sponsorship.
Xu Wei, spokesman of the Shanghai World Expo Coordination Bureau, told Xinhua Wednesday that the bureau annulled the sponsorship contract with the tobacco company and would return the money, although the timing and payment details had yet to be decided.
Xu would not name the company. Asked if it was the Shanghai Tobacco (Group) Corp. (STC), the only known tobacco sponsor of the Expo, Xu declined to comment.
STC is also the only company known to have donated at least 200 million yuan.
Xu said the bureau made the decision in order to commit itself to a healthy World Expo at the suggestion earlier this month of a group of about 20 public health experts.
The group included Cui Xiaobo, professor of the Capital Medical University, Hu Dayi, professor of the People's Hospital affiliated to Peking University, and Wu Yixiong, director of the Think Tank Research Center for Health Development, an anti-tabacco organization.
The STC, which produces China's major cigarette brands including Panda and Chung Hua, on May 7 donated 200 million yuan to build the China Pavilion, which is expected to cost 1.5 billion yuan.
The move triggered debate among the public.
Some held that tobacco companies had the right to contribute to society since tobacco production was a legal business.
But experts cited Article 13 of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), under which parties are obliged to undertake a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, at both domestic and international levels.
In 2003, China, the world's largest tobacco producer and consumer, signed the FCTC, which commits it to banning all types of tobacco advertising and promotion by 2011.