More anger at Red Cross
Updated: 2013-05-02 00:52
By SHAN JUAN (China Daily)
The Red Cross Society of China caused controversy on Monday when it apologized for using a 2008 donation of 84.72 million yuan ($13.73 million) for different charity projects than those originally agreed upon.
The society, the biggest humanitarian organization in the country, said in an online notice that the money donated by more than 100 top Chinese contemporary artists was used on a project called Boai Jiayuan, or "Homeland Philanthropy", equipping 248 communities in provinces including Sichuan and Gansu with disaster response tools.
However, the Red Cross and the donors had previously agreed that the funds would be used exclusively for disaster relief and recovery in Qingchengshan, a city affected by the devastating magnitude-8 Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008.
To raise funds after the earthquake, Poly International Auction Co Ltd, the artists' representative, held a charity auction of 103 artworks donated by the best artists in China, including Zhang Xiaogang, Fang Lijun, and Zhou Chunya.
The auction helped raise 84.72 million yuan in relief funds, which was then donated to the society.
The Red Cross used the money for various causes in 2010 as Poly International failed to properly plan for its use in Wenchuan's recovery, the notice said.
But the Red Cross conceded that it did not do well in terms of donor communication and follow-up services.
"We apologize for that and will improve our work throughout the whole process of charity project planning, decision making, and implementation," it said.
A Poly International information representative who asked not to be named told China Daily on Wednesday that they had just heard of the Red Cross' online apology.
"We didn't know that they used the money for other projects until a few days ago," he said, adding that they had never received a notification from the Red Cross as to how the donations were being used.
"In fact, we asked them about that one or two years after making the donation but got no clear reply."
On April 25, Fang Lijun, one of the donor artists, said via his micro blog that he still had not received any feedback from the Red Cross about how the donations were used.
"As of today, we have no idea where our donations went," he wrote, sparking much public criticism of the society.
Fang later forwarded the society's apology notification on Sina Weibo but did not respond to requests for an interview.
Wang Yong, a representative of the independent Red Cross social supervision committee, told China Daily that they had closely followed the situation.
"It's inappropriate for the society to change the donation recipient without consent from donors," he said.
The Red Cross should publicize detailed information about its usage of funds to help gain donors' understanding, Wang said.
"We appreciated that they (the Red Cross) at least responded and made a public apology," he said, urging donors to also issue public statements in response.
Song Zonghe with the China Charity and Donation Information Center, supervised by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said if donors clearly define their intended recipient, the charity should respect their wishes.
However, he said the charity should also be able to arrange new recipients should there be unforeseen circumstances.
"But donors should be informed beforehand," Song said.
In this case, the society did have a problem with donor communication, but it did not involve any violations of the law, he said, "as the money still went to disaster relief-related projects".
The Red Cross has been under fire since 2011, when a woman named Guo Meimei claimed to be a manager with the society and openly flaunted her wealth on Sina Weibo.
This caused much speculation regarding the possible embezzlement of donated money, but a probe later found no connection between Guo and the Red Cross.
Lin Qi contributed to this story.
HK DONATES TO QUAKE-HIT REGION
Hong Kong corporations and individuals have donated HK$172 million ($22.2 million) and 10,000 cans of milk powder to the mainland's earthquake-hit region, the central government's liaison office said on Tuesday.
A magnitude-7 earthquake hit Ya'an city in Southwest China's Sichuan province on April 20, leaving at least 196 people dead and 21 others missing.
The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region publicized its special bank account on April 21 and called on Hong Kong people to donate for the quake-devastated region.
Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong chief executive, proposed a donation of HK$100 million in public funds, but the donation was delayed on April 24 after two hours of debate since some people worried that the money might be misused due to lack of supervision, People's Daily reported.
A video clip of the debate circulated online, with many netizens suggesting mainland authorities be required to enhance supervision and transparency toward the donation.
Hong Kong scholar and poet Jao Tsung-I donated HK$500,000 through the liaison office on Tuesday. Many other Hong Kong people also actively donated, according to China News Service.