Quake offers chance for charities to rebuild image
Updated: 2013-04-23 23:10
BEIJING - China's official charity bodies, beset by a trust crisis, should seize the latest earthquake in Sichuan Province as a chance to rebuild a reputation damaged by earlier scandals of corruption.
The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), a leading figure in the pool, has become a target for public criticism on the Internet since the beginning of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Sichuan on Saturday, the exact province ravaged by a much deadlier quake five years ago.
Online reports show that donation collecting points set up by the RCSC on streets have been shunned by passers-by. On the contrary, private charities such as the One Foundation initiated by movie star Jet Li have gained wide applause for their transparent and orderly handling of donations.
Public hostility toward the RCSC and other government-sponsored charities in general has mounted over the years, particularly since the massive 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, after a series of scandals pointed to cheating in the allocation of donations and corruption among their employees.
The reputation of the RCSC suffered a disastrous decline two years ago when a young woman registered on twitter-style website Sina Weibo as a manager of the organization openly flaunted wealth and extravagance.
Although the RCSC later denied the woman as an employee and made efforts to improve transparency, it has since been unable to restore public faith due to its long-time lack of openness in the management of charity funds.
Now that the public is keeping a skeptical eye on the RCSC during the new earthquake, which has killed nearly 200 people so far, it offers a precious chance for the organization to prove itself.
The need for the RCSC and other official charity bodies to become more transparent is urgent, not only for the sake of the organizations, but for the general public as well because they are a vital part of the country's charity cause thanks to their nationwide networks for collecting and dispatching donations.
Fortunately, despite some public apathy, the RCSC says on its official website it had received more than 120 million yuan (19.4 million U.S. dollars) worth of public donations for the Saturday earthquake as of Monday afternoon.
Whether the RCSC could handle this large amount of donations properly and transparently will decide if the organization can win back its once fine reputation.
A basic request for the RCSC is to make public how much donations it has received from whom and what they were used for so that people can easily trace back to the donors and beneficiaries for verification.
Currently, the organization has made some progress by stating on its website the amount of money each donor has made to help with rescue and reconstruction work related to the earthquake.
But, normally it is the part of expenditure that often raises questions such as whether the money is spent buying something unnecessary, or at prices higher than market average, or whether the money and goods are actually delivered to those in need.
Meanwhile, the RCSC should also be open about the part of funds reserved for the operation of the organization, including employee salaries, logistics, and so on.
If the RCSC can be 100 percent clear about these questions, public doubts will soon be dissolved.