Red Cross set to ask ministers for help
The Red Cross Society of China is set to ask for help from the State Council to launch major reforms in a desperate move to restore public confidence and donations after it was hit by a series of scandals - but the proposal has met strong resistance from its provincial branches.
At a two-day national meeting in Beijing that ended on Thursday, Zhao Baige, executive vice-president of the Red Cross Society of China, proposed to lobby the State Council to issue a set of reform guidelines for the society - to be drafted by government officials and academics.
The guidelines would define the relationship between the Red Cross, the government and the commercial sector and clarify the society's role, responsibilities and the financial resources, the Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday.
Zhao also wants the reforms to serve as a pilot case of organisational reform under the National Development and Reform Commission. That means the Red Cross would have to tighten up management and set up a committee containing members of the public to supervise its operation.
According to the proposal presented by Zhao, a new Red Cross department and team of leaders would also be set up to ensure smooth communication of information, while a centralised database would be put in place to monitor donations and their use, the report said.
'We are facing a different world, different country, different society and different [Communist] Party. If you don't realise it and don't adapt to it, you will be out,' Zhao was quoted as telling the meeting. 'I may sound a bit extreme, but everyone here must accept reform.'
In June, Guo Meimei, a 20-year-old who claimed to be a Red Cross manager, flaunted her sports car and luxury fashion accessories on the internet, triggering a national outcry over the morals of charity organisations. A series of scandals followed, hitting donations hard.
However, the society's secretary-general Wang Rupeng said donations received this year stood at nearly 560 million yuan (HK$686 million), more or less the same as previous years, the Beijing News reported.
Zhao added that donations from individuals had decreased significantly, which she attributed to the scandals as well as fewer natural disasters stirring people to give.
'The management of our brand and our response to emergency needs some serious reform. Without help from the top level of the government, we will have difficulty to push it ahead,' she said.
The report was removed from the newspaper's website yesterday, prompting speculation that it may have been censored. Phone calls to the Red Cross administrative headquarters rang unanswered.
'The making of an important decision must seek opinions from all parties. At the moment, we have not reached a consensus. We think the emphasis on reform comes too early,' the newspaper quoted a Fujian representative as saying.
Representatives from Guizhou also opposed the proposal, saying that the Guo incident had nothing to do with the Red Cross and should not be used as an excuse to change the existing model.
Tsinghua University professor Jia Xijin , who specialises in the study of non-government organisations, said that provincial Red Cross branches opposed top-down reform because they had enjoyed semi-independence for a long time.
'The hierarchical structure of the Red Cross in China is a mess,' Jia said. 'I doubt whether the central government can, or should, untie the knots with brute, administrative force.'
The amount in yuan by which charity donations fell in China between June - when the Guo Meimei scandal surfaced - and August