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China pledges greater transparency in charity sector

(Xinhua)

08:10, September 21, 2012

BEIJING, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- China's Civil Affairs Ministry on Thursday vowed to improve the transparency of the country's charity organizations in a bid to rebuild their creditability.

The ministry would strictly carry out annual inspections on charity organizations, especially on their financial records, Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo said at a press conference. He added that the ministry would try to engage third-party agencies to assess their performance in the future.

Li also promised to further promote the publishing of organizations' information.

"Not only the results of the inspections and assessments should be released to designated media and websites, but donations which attract attention should also be included in the publicity platform," Li said.

China's charity organizations suffered a blow last year, with its total public donations in 2011 dropping to 84.5 billion yuan (about 13.4 billion U.S. dollars), down 18.1 percent year on year. Donations to the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), in particular, plummeted 59.39 percent, according to previous official reports.

The fall was mainly attributed to a scandal with the RCSC involved last June, when Guo Meimei, a young woman who claimed to work for an association affiliated with the organization, posted photographs showcasing her lavish lifestyle online. This led to speculation that charity money might have been embezzled to fund her extravagances.

While donations to official channels dropped, an emerging charity form, dubbed micro-charity which was independently organized by users of social networking services, became increasingly popular in helping disadvantaged groups such as rural students.

Li said while such innovative micro-charity acts deserve supports, public scrutiny is needed to ensure the "healthy growth" of them.

Li pledged to put in place sound institutional mechanisms within the existing legal framework to promote the transparent operation of charity initiatives.

New guidelines on charity activities had been drafted, which is expected to provide stronger legal basis for law enforcement agencies to supervise charity activities once adopted by the State Council, according Dou Yupei, a deputy minister of civil affairs.

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