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Jul 26, 2014 03:21 AM EDT

A Chinese real estate tycoon couple find themselves at the center of a controversy after pledging $15 million for "Soho China Scholarship" at the Harvard University.

Critics accused Zhang Xin, chief executive of Soho China, and her husband Pan Shiyi, of ignoring Chinese Universities and "forgetting their roots."

Responding to the allegations, Zhang said that the couple's objective was to help needy Chinese students attend top American universities.

"If Harvard has accepted you, being poor will no longer be a barrier," Zhang said, South China Morning Post reports.


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Some of the critics described the couple as "traitors" and demanded reasons as to why they had not directly donated money to poor Chinese families in rural areas that are deprived of basic teaching facilities. Other critics questioned chances of impoverished students getting admitted to the Harvard.

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"I only want to tell China's entrepreneurs: think about children in China's West," one user posted on Weibo. "[They] don't have enough food and have no shoes to wear in winter. For those students who study abroad, which of their families doesn't have connections or money?"

The SOHO fund will approximately support 60 Chinese students to complete four-year degrees at the Harvard. The signing of the gift will not directly translate into more admissions of Chinese students. Instead, the university will financially assist admitted students with payments.

"The gift, which will start being distributed in the coming academic year, will help the college continue to keep Harvard affordable for all admitted students, regardless of their financial resources. However, the admissions process continues to be need blind for all applicants," said Patrick McKiernan, associate director of Communications Alumni Affairs and Development at Harvard, Forbes reports.

Besides Harvard, the couple is planning to donate money to other prestigious universities in the US (Yale and Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and UK, bringing the grand total of scholarships' fund to $100 million.

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