Supervise, don't smear Red Cross

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Renowned philanthropist Li Chunping, left, donates 6 million yuan to the Red Cross Society of China on April 22, 2013, in Beijing, in the aftermath of a recent earthquake that jolted southwest China's Sichuan province. [Photo/]

Renowned philanthropist Li Chunping, left, donates 6 million yuan to the Red Cross Society of China on April 22, 2013, in Beijing, in the aftermath of a recent earthquake that jolted southwest China's Sichuan province. [Photo/]

Despite its recent quake-relief efforts, rumors have continued to sully the image of the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), hampering its ability to fulfill its mission.

When a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook Ya'an City, Sichuan Province, on Saturday, the RCSC moved quickly to launch disaster relief work and initiate a push for public donations.

It also put out collection boxes on streets throughout China.

However, passersby have largely ignored the collection boxes. Instead of donating quake-relief funds through the RCSC, many have opted to open their wallets to private charity groups, showing what little faith the public has in the RCSC.

Meanwhile, the public has applauded the transparency and orderly handling of donations of the One Foundation, a private charity group initiated by kung fu film star Jet Li and promoted online by celebrities.

On Saturday, the RCSC received over 140,000 yuan (22,661 U.S. dollars) in donations, while the One Foundation took in over 10 million yuan the same day.

In addition to its past problems, a fresh round of rampant rumors isn't helping the RCSC's cause. Rumors recently circulated online claimed the organization demanded that the Red Cross in Taiwan pay a hefty "admission fee" before volunteers from the island could offer assistance.

Taiwan's Red Cross refuted the rumor on Monday, saying the report was "misleading" and "totally untrue."

Public supervision is certainly needed for charity organizations. However, deliberately denigrating the RCSC will hamper its disaster relief work and impede the development of the country's charity sector.

As the largest organization of its kind in China, the RCSC, which boasts over 98,000 sub-organizations and more than 26 million members in China, plays a major role in providing humanitarian assistance throughout the country.

Despite its scale and the role it plays, public hostility toward the RCSC and other government-sponsored charities solidified after a series of scandals pointed to embezzlement and corruption among the organizations' employees.

One major such scandal occurred in 2011 and dealt a major blow to the RCSC's reputation. "Guo Meimei," a purported staffer of an organization supposedly affiliated to the RCSC, used social media to flaunt her extravagant lifestyle and luxury goods.

After posting photos of herself carrying expensive handbags and posing on a white Maserati, netizens erupted in anger, speculating that she may have embezzled money from the RCSC to fund her lavish lifestyle.

A third-party investigation said neither "Guo Meimei" nor her apparent wealth had anything to do with the RCSC. But it also pointed out that grave flaws existed in the management of the China Business System Red Cross Society, one of the RCSC's fund-raising groups.

The RCSC announced Wednesday that it will renew the investigation into the "Guo Meimei incident" in May. The renewed probe will be carried out by an independent third party, without the participation of any RCSC staff -- a move the organization hopes can reestablish its credibility among the public.

As an dispensable part of China's social assistance system, charity work should be strengthened. Whether government-sponsored or not, charity organizations provide humanitarian aid for vulnerable groups in need.

Promoting the development of private charity groups does not mean weakening or even denying the roles that official groups like the RCSC play. Rumors slandering the RCSC and complaints about the group's official background are, in fact, nothing but a kind of bias.

Still, the RCSC's public image problems are not stopping the organization from playing an active and helpful role in quake relief. The group has donated quake relief funds and materials worth about 66.16 million yuan and deployed 25 rescue teams with 113 vehicles to quake-hit areas.

To rehabilitate its image, there is no doubt that the RCSC needs to implement a stricter supervision system and boost transparency, but neither fabricating rumors nor gloating at the organization's plight qualify as behavior that constitutes public or press supervision.


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