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Rebirth of the Red Cross

China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-02 08:00

Zhao Baige, executive vice-president of the Red Cross Society of China, said at a recent news conference that she will resign if the society fails to change its public image within three years.

However, public concerns over its role in the relief efforts after the Lushan earthquake in southwestern Sichuan province, and their increased hesitation to make donations to victims via the Red Cross mean that China's largest charity organization is facing an uphill task.

China's Red Cross is yet to rebuild its tarnished credibility among the public after a 2011 scandal, in which a young lady using the name Guo Meimei, who claimed to work for an organization affiliated to the RCSC, posted on the Internet photos of her living a luxury lifestyle. The Guo Meimei scandal put the Red Cross in the public spotlight and people questioned how their donations were being used. Although a self-organized investigation claimed there was no connection between the RCSC or its branches and Guo, the public's concerns have not been fully eased, as the continuous public scrutiny has exposed poor management within the charity organization.

Despite the RCSC's fast mobilization of available resources for victims of the Lushan earthquake, the public has not responded positively, as indicated by the meager 140,000 yuan ($22,690) that was donated to the RCSC on the day of the earthquake. The One Foundation, a private charity founded by actor Jet Li, raised more than 10 million yuan on the same day. By Saturday, more than 1.3 billion yuan had been raised by various charity organizations to help the earthquake victims, but less than half was collected by the Red Cross system, a proportion much lower than after the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008.

The Red Cross is eager to repair its broken image. But although the charity organization's supervisory committee has said it will re-organize a probe into the Guo Meimei Incident in a renewed effort to respond to the unabated public concerns, it has to go through serious soul-searching and a thorough overhaul of its operations to reclaim the trust it has lost.

It has no way out except becoming clean, transparent, efficient and truly committed to public good.

(China Daily 05/02/2013 page8)

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