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Woman cuts watershed for China’s charities

By Li Hong (People's Daily Online)

16:54, September 15, 2011

A 20-something pretty girl has dealt a fatal blow on philanthropy in China.

The woman, named Guo Meimei, in June declared on her microblog that she was the general manager of the Red Cross Chamber of Commerce, a commercial body affiliated to the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), China’s largest charity organization, and she uploaded a flurry of pictures flaunting her Maserati and other brand-name cars and excessively lavish life.

Then, investigative news reports have ascertained that Guo was the girlfriend of a married man who is the director of the Red Cross Chamber of Commerce. Naturally, suspicions that the RCSC was using public donations to support the luxurious lives of its employees quickly spread over the Internet.

Despite vehement spinning by the charitable organ that Guo had nothing to do with RCSC, and explanations by the woman herself that her investment-savvy mother gave her gold spoons, people are not swayed. They believe that RCSC was not telling the whole story, and corruption must have embroiled it.

As reputation of RCSC has plummeted to the ground, charitable entrepreneurs are shaking their heads in disbelief, snapping shut their pockets. The Ministry of Civil Affairs reported yesterday that Guo Meimei has cut a watershed for philanthropy in the country. In the three months from June to August, China’s all charities received donations of 840 million yuan, a sharp contrast to March-May’s 6.26 billion yuan. The difference amounts to 86.6 percent precipitous drop.

The ministry has asked people to devote to their long-held spirit of generous giving, otherwise people living in dire straits are to suffer. However, it is almost certain that people will continue to look at RCSC and other Chinese charities with contempt, if not sarcasm, as their credit remains in serious disrepair.

As long as relevant authorities refuse to conduct a through probe into Guo Meimei’s case, and ferret out and punish the corrupted felons behind the scandal, the public are likely to vote with their boots and turn away from charities. We all know that our donation funds have been dissipated.

Transparency of fund management is the lifeline of all charities, including China’s. The opaque style of business dealing in China has given birth to a culture of backdoor revolving, money-power trade and corruption. That China’s charities lapsing into embezzlement and patronage are damaging the country’s global prestige.

Charitable organizations are supposed to offer a safety net and hope for the future for those in need. People pour their hard-earned money into the organization under the premise that it is making a difference in someone's life.

On July 31, The RCSC said it launched an online database which is supposed to provide greater transparency. This was a step that should have come earlier. But the charity body still has many questions to answer if it wants to regain lost credibility.

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corruption, if not contained, could usurp many in China.
  

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