Charity transparency desperately needed

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Global Times, June 27, 2011
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China's charity system is paying a high price for its lack of transparency.

Guo Meimei, a 20-year-old girl who claimed to be "Red Cross Chamber of Commerce's" general manager while flaunting her lavish lifestyle online, apologized on her microblog on Sunday for faking her identity and damaging the reputation of the Red Cross Society of China.

Before Guo's posts appeared, the Red Cross had denied Guo was its employee. However, the public does not seem to buy these announcements.

Public faith in China's official organizations is severely lacking these days. Netizens prefer to turn to "human flesh search engines," or expansive research online and offline to fathom Guo's real identity and her relationship with the Red Cross. The cloud of suspicion is far from being lifted.

Regardless of what Guo's real identity is, public doubts and criticisms leveled at the Red Cross represent a condemnation of the organization's long-time lack of transparency.

It is true that donations through the Red Cross have helped people in poor regions and victims of disasters. But the organization's operational procedures remain mysterious to the public, and no one can guarantee the organization is immune to corruption.

At the moment, the Red Cross is finding it hard to repair its reputation no matter what it announces. Furthermore, public suspicion about China's charity system has dealt a blow to the enthusiasm of philanthropists and public figures.

Yang Lan, a well-known TV presenter, recently became embroiled in a donation scandal when she was accused of donating 200,000 yuan ($31,000) to a charity project only to take all the money back later. Yang quickly rejected the accusation, and the netizen who posted the message has apologized for quoting an unverified source.

Despite the clarification of Yang's incident, insufficient social trust of charities remains the norm.

As famous Chinese film director Feng Xiaogang complained in his microblog in May, "One gets no trouble if he makes no donations, but faces scolding and doubts if he does donate. Nowadays, no one in the arts field eagerly stands up to donate."

Ending this embarrassing situation will be a long process. China's charity system must become more open and standardized. More charity organizations should be built to end the "monopoly" held by a handful of official charity groups.

Meanwhile, the government should fix its credibility. As for the Red Cross scandal, the government must organize convincing investigations to untie those ambiguous knots.

The promotion of a legal system is pivotal to relieving the embarrassment clouding China's charities.

On the one hand, the Red Cross should operate in a more standardized manner. On the other hand, the lack of a charity system should not become an excuse for those who start and spread rumors online. Ungrounded criticism should not be allowed.

This goes back to the old problem of a lack of legal awareness in Chinese society. But the building of a legal system and prevalence of legal awareness call for common efforts from all of society.

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