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Red Cross reopens Guo Meimei scandal

By Zhang Yiwei (Global Times)

08:33, April 25, 2013

A supervisory committee of the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) said Wednesday it will reopen an investigation into the "Guo Meimei Affair," a scandal two years ago that continues to plague the charity's credibility as it seeks donations for victims of the Lushan earthquake in Sichuan Province.

Guo Meimei is a young woman who claimed to be a general manager of a company affiliated with the RCSC and boosted of her great wealth on her verified Weibo account. She posted photographs of herself posing beside a high-priced sports car and carrying expensive designer handbags.

The third-party watchdog committee, which was established last year, said on its official Weibo account that it will resume an investigation into the scandal by inviting public representatives to directly communicate with staff from the RCSC. The investigation will begin after the disaster relief work in Lushan is completed.

The RCSC attempted to redeem itself at the time Guo's story made headlines denying it had anything to do with Guo, who also admitted online that her previous posts were a lie. While the scandal subsided the society's reputation has never fully recovered.

The RCSC's recent plea for donations to aid victims of the Lushan quake received thousands of caustic replies from Web users who en masse wrote "gun" or get away.

The RCSC's website shows it has so far raised 270 million yuan ($43.69 million) in goods and cash for its Lushan campaign. The website for Jet Li's charity, the One Foundation, claims to have raised about 130 million yuan in cash for its earthquake relief work.

Web users continued to pile on the criticism following the RCSC's announcement it will reopen its investigation into the 2011 Guo scandal.

Wang Yong, a committee spokesperson, told the Global Times he doesn't expect the investigation will result in complete redemption for the RCSC.

"Even if we conduct a thorough investigation people may not regain their trust in the RCSC," Wang said. "But if we do nothing the RCSC's reputation will only get worse."

Wang said if Guo was indeed related to the organization, personnel involved should be penalized.

Xia Xueluan, a Peking University sociologist, told the Global Times that the investigation may do little to help the RCSC regain the public's trust, suggesting the RCSC's difficulties raising relief funds is a sign it has a long way to go.

"A thorough investigation into Guo Meimei scandal is not the most important issue," said Xia. "Setting up a transparent system accounting for its donation is key to helping it avoid another scandal," said Xia, adding that if the new investigation is thorough people's attitude will change in the long run.

Shi Changkui, a charity expert with the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, echoed Xia's opinion, saying the RCSC's credibility crisis won't last forever. He pointed out that although people fiercely criticize RCSC online, it has still had success raising funds for the Lushan earthquake victims.

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