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China Red Cross vows to raise transparency

Updated: 2012-12-14 04:01
By WANG XIAODONG ( China Daily)

The Red Cross Society of China on Thursday pledged to improve transparency and supervision to regain public trust, after donations fell for the second year running.

The society saw total revenue hit 3.8 billion yuan ($607 million) between Oct 1, 2011, and Sept 30, secretary-general Wang Rupeng said at a meeting in Beijing.

However, that included just 2.18 billion yuan from private organizations and individuals at home and abroad.

Private donations totaled 2.8 billion yuan in 2011, nearly 60 percent less than the amount the society received in 2010, according to a Ministry of Civil Affairs report in June.

The China Red Cross has more than 3,000 branches nationwide, employing more than 11,000 fulltime workers.

"Several reasons are behind the decline in donations," Wang said. "First, we haven't seen as many major natural disasters as in previous years, so we didn't make any large-scale appeals to the public. And second, the influence of the Guo Meimei incident still lingers."

Public donations spiked following major disasters in recent years. After a 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Qinghai province in April 2010, killing more than 2,600 people, the society said it received 2.4 billion yuan in donations toward the relief effort.

However, the charity came under fire in 2011 when a young woman calling herself Guo Meimei boasted on Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like website, about her extravagant lifestyle and claimed she worked for an organization under the China Red Cross.

This caused a controversy among netizens, who assumed she had embezzled funds. They criticized the society, accusing it of corruption.

Although it was later proved the organization Guo claimed to work for never existed, the incident tarnished the society's reputation and donations declined sharply in the following months.

To dispel mistrust, the China Red Cross has taken a series of measures, such as establishing a supervision committee this month to improve management, particularly donation management.

The committee is made up of 16 members from different fields, including law, medicine and finance, and will work independently, the society said.

"Setting up the committee demonstrates our willingness to accept public supervision," said Zhao Baige, executive vice-director of the China Red Cross, adding that the society will continue to improve transparency to win back trust.

The society is making progress in establishing a public and transparent system that includes information on donations, projects and capital flow, she said. "The whole system is expected to be in use by the end of next year."

China's charity foundations have faced a crisis of trust since the Guo Meimei scandal. Public trust has largely been lost, as many charities lack transparency in fundraising and financing, experts say.

Zheng Jinran contributed to this story.

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