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Red Cross unit appeals for donations after scandal

Red Cross unit appeals for donations after scandal

Updated: 2012-04-16 07:50

(Xinhua / China Daily)

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A major scandal involving the Red Cross Society of China last year has hit the charity's branch in a quake-hit plateau region, which is now pledging transparency in its appeal for funds to be used for reconstruction.

The Yushu branch of the Red Cross reported a "substantial" drop in donations since the "Guo Meimei scandal" rattled the country's philanthropy sector nearly a year ago, said Kelsang Tashi, head of the branch in Qinghai province.

Donations have "been at a standstill since the scandal", he said, adding that most of the 16 million yuan ($2.54 million) in donations were made before June 2011.

"Things have been tough for us these days," Tashi said.

In June, a young woman calling herself Guo Meimei claimed she was a general manager of a group affiliated with the Red Cross Society of China and posted photos of her lavish lifestyle online, raising suspicions that funds donated to the society might be vulnerable to embezzlement.

Though the society denied any association with Guo, the damage had been done. Online polls indicated that many people were less willing to donate through the Red Cross.

Tashi said since September, his branch has been disclosing details of each donation in a timely manner, but little has changed.

"We are trying our best to communicate with the world outside Yushu and invite attention and supervision from as many as possible," Tashi said.

Yushu was hit by a magnitude-7.1 earthquake on April 14, 2010. Some 2,698 people were killed and the entire town of Gyegu near the epicenter was leveled.

The cost of reconstruction had risen to 20.8 billion yuan by the end of last year, financed by the treasury, local governments, businesses and charities.

The provincial government had previously estimated that reconstruction investment this year would be about 1.5 billion yuan.

Kuang Yong, the provincial housing and construction bureau chief, said on Wednesday that no reconstruction funds had been found to have been embezzled.