A hoax whose effects have plagued the Chinese Red Cross throughout the summer has revived public mistrust of charities, and seems likely to adversely affect charitable giving in China. It began when a young woman who claimed to work at the charity posted pictures of herself online posing with a Maserati, confirming the suspicion already alive in the minds of many that the Red Cross was misspending funds. Both the Red Cross and the woman, Ms Guo, have denied any link, and she has said she is not their employee, but the denials have cut no ice with the Chinese public who seem to feel that there is no smoke without fire.
Also of this opinion, apparently, is the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist party. Early in July, the paper added its weight to the affair, asking in an editorial whether the Red Cross would ever be able to regain China’s trust and saying, rather damningly: ‘The [Red Cross] society claimed that it had nothing to do with Guo, but the statement is not proof of its innocence.’ In an apparent effort to allay suspicion, the Red Cross opened its own microblogging account, but after only four posts it was besieged with thousands of comments, many of which just said ‘give back our money’ over and over again. In the light of this, the organization’s remarks that the affair will ‘definitely have an impact’ on future donations appears a piece of understatement.
Apart from dealing a serious blow to the credibility of the Chinese Red Cross, it is likely to send jitters through a public whose attitude to charitable organizations is ambivalent at the best of times. Subsequently, the China Charity Federation has been the subject of allegations that it mishandled corporate donations, and the China Youth Development Foundation is under scrutiny because of rather opaque links to a business entity that has been accused of what the China Daily calls ‘serious dishonesty… in the name of philanthropy’. The China Daily also reported in late August that stocks of blood in Beijing stood at only a third of the ideal amount. The reasons for this apparently include not only the Guo affair but also accusations that Red Cross agencies have profited from blood supplies collected from donors.
The Telegraph, 6 July 2011
China Daily, 20 August 2011