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No cover to be allowed for dirty deals

(China Daily)

10:50, August 15, 2011

No matter how hard the scandal-ridden Red Cross Society of China tries, its public image will be difficult to restore. The loss of public confidence is so complete that almost all charitable organizations associated with Red Cross establishments across China are experiencing drastic reductions in donations.

The latest challenges for Red Cross to publish information on vehicles in its possession, as well as to explain obvious errors in the information it has published on public donations - which the institution attributed to careless compilers - may be easy to muddle through. But there is little chance that the grilling melodrama will end with them.

The trouble is none of the excuses and explanations Red Cross has come up with have sounded convincing to the suspicious public. The information it has shared so far, under tremendous pressure from angry donors, has instead given rise to further doubts and questions.

Few care whether or not the incredulous public dumps the Red Cross system. Many have expressed distrust of the bureaucratic institution and vowed to keep away from it.

But the collateral damage is too severe to be affordable - the distrust is now spilling into all official charitable institutions. Dramatic drops in donations have been reported from all charities that have an official background. Many people say they would opt for trustworthy non-governmental charitable institutions or donate directly to recipients.

The credibility crisis does have the potential to cripple a number of government-sponsored charitable establishments. Which is why people are worried that donor disdain may deal a heavy blow to charitable undertakings in the country. Ultimately, they say, it is the needy that will fall victims.

That may be the case if Red Cross and its likes remain the sole players in the field of charity. But since new regulations say that non-governmental charitable organizations no longer have to be affiliated to government agencies, there will be plenty of vehicles beyond the traditional official channels.

The troubles of the official charitable institutions, therefore, are unlikely to throttle the future of Chinese philanthropy.

On the contrary, the focus on Red Cross these days offers an opportunity of rebirth for traditional charities run by the government. As long as they can communicate constructively, interact effectively with the public, reform themselves and learn to operate transparently, they will continue to be relevant.

But they will have no future if they are interested only in perpetuating the privileges they have enjoyed as affiliates of bureaucratic establishments.

No matter how hard they try to hide, they will find vigilant eyes watching over their shoulders.

Times have changed; there is no cover for dirty dealings.

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