Opinion / Editorials

Red Cross needs real reform

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-04 07:25

A new person at the help should certainly bring something different to the infamous Red Cross Society of China.

But let's face it, the RCSC's credibility crisis has run too deep and broad to be undone by superficial moves.

The three-year tenure of the outgoing presiding executive, Zhao Baige, is proof that the organization will not regain the public's trust until it embraces transparency and undergoes substantial reform.

Three years ago, Zhao took over amid an unprecedented scandal triggered by a wealth-flaunting young woman who claimed she was associated with the charity.

Ridiculed as the organization's "fire captain", Zhao tried fairly hard to safeguard its reputation.

At an April 2013 press conference, she promised to resign if she failed to reverse the society's "black cross" image in three years.

She vowed the organization would do some "profound soul-searching". She pledged reforms. She initiated adjustments targeted at transparency and oversight.

And to her and the Red Cross' consolation, the woman who triggered the institution's devastating crisis confessed on national television that her claimed Red Cross connection did not exist.

But three years on, the RCSC remains a target of public disdain. Its charitable functions have suffered seriously as a result of donor doubts. Worse, crisis-control efforts have sunk it even deeper into the mire. Everything said and done in favor of the RCSC is perceived as an attempt to cover things up.

It was not that Zhao was incapable, or didn't want to make a difference. In the eyes of those who have worked with her, she is a rare system insider who is amicable, capable, and wants to do things.

Yet it takes more than a competent leader to build the RCSC into a respectable and trustworthy institution.

Zhao's internal reform project and information-sharing initiative have stalled because of insider resistance. The latest media exposé that the society has been making illicit profits from leasing emergency disaster relief storage consolidates popular suspicions.

Zhao's successor Xu Ke, another technocrat known for her low profile and prudence, is under the same pressure to repair the organization's shattered public image.

But the curse lies ultimately in the way it operates. Unless it honestly subjects its operations to public scrutiny, there is simply no way to convince people that its claim of innocence is valid.

So the new Red Cross leader should not expect an outcome better than her predecessor's if she is not ready for a determined fight against the RCSC's vested interests.

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