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Web China: Netizens mock charities' 'full scores' on transparency


13:52, December 29, 2012

BEIJING, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- A ranking of Chinese charities based on transparency has been mocked online, as 17 foundations managed to receive full scores despite a series of scandals in recent years.

The ranking of over 2,000 Chinese foundations gave full scores to the China Red Cross Foundation (CRCF), which is under the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), and 16 other charities. The list was released on the website of the China Foundation Center (CFC), an information service platform for China's foundations, on Wednesday.

Jointly initiated by the CFC and the Corruption Control and Management Center of Tsinghua University on Wednesday, the ranking was based on the Foundation Transparency Index (FTI), which consists of 40 sub-indices such as annual fiscal reports and accounting reports subject to the Foundation Management Regulations issued by the State Council, China's Cabinet.

In just two days, it managed to become a trending topic online, as netizens have interpreted it as a sarcastic joke made despite the notoriety of Chinese charities.

"Transparent? Transparent to ugly nudity," mocked one netizen, likening the list to "The Emperor's New Clothes," a tale by Hans Christian Andersen.

Sun Shuopeng, executive deputy director with the CRCF, said the full scores only mean the foundations have met regulated standards, and it is actually a "Pass."

"The FTI is only a fundamental standard index for Chinese foundations, which does not necessarily mean a full-scored foundation is transparent enough," said Sun.

The cacophony of mockery online reflects the "trust crisis" Chinese charities are facing, experts say.

This crisis was born of the long opaque system that drew public outcry following several scandals concerning Chinese charities, said Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociology professor at Renmin University of China.

In a notable case, a young woman calling herself "Guo Meimei" claimed in microblog posts in June 2011 that she worked for an organization under the RCSC and detailed her lavish lifestyle. Although the RCSC later denied the existence of such an organization, the case led to public calls for scrutinizing charity funds.

Last September, the Soong Ching Ling Foundation in central Henan Province was suspected of embezzling charitable donations and lending large amounts of money to real estate companies for the construction of luxury apartments.

Affected by the cases, charitable donations this year dropped for a second consecutive year to over 70 billion yuan (11.1 billion U.S. dollars), according to the figure released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs on Tuesday. The value in 2011 and 2010 stood at 84.5 billion and 103.2 billion yuan, respectively.

To mitigate the crisis, the RCSC in early December set up a special committee to supervise the collection and management of donations. A total of 16 members, including professional experts and public celebrities, were included. Other charities, such as the One Foundation initiated by film star Jet Li, have voluntarily released donation details online.

"Transparency is the very basis for trust, as well as bottom line for philanthropy," said Yang Peng, secretary general of the One Foundation.

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