Please save the Red Cross Society of China, a mainland student in Hong Kong wrote in an open letter to Peng Liyuan, urging China's first lady to take over the beleaguered charity as chairwoman.
“As a student, and a patriotic Chinese citizen, I plead, if it is possible, for you to take over as head of the Red Cross Society of China,” the post-graduate student at Chinese University of Hong Kong wrote in the letter she published on Sina Weibo.
“I sincerely look to you to transform the present Red Cross system to be more transparent to re-establish Chinese philanthropy’s image,” she wrote in the letter.
In the wake of the Sichuan earthquake on Saturday, the student, identified by only her surname Xue, said she chose to donate to relief efforts via the China Siyuan Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, instead of the Red Cross association, “for obvious reasons”.
The 109-year-old official charity organisation has been beset by a crisis of confidence in recent years after it was plagued by a series of scandals and rumours.
Xue, 24, who is from Hubei and is studying e-commerce and logistics technologies at CUHK, said she came up with the chairwoman idea after noticing that an NGO founded by movie star Jet Li drew more donations on the first day after the quake than a government-run charity.
“Even though we now have some reliable non-government charity organisations, the Red Cross Society of China is still indispensable,” she said, noting its important role as a bridge to its oversea counterparts and as the face of China’s philanthropy.
Xue said she had followed Peng's career since she was a renowned contemporary folk singer and was impressed by her elegance during performances and talk shows. Peng's positive image could help lift the charity’s tainted reputation, Xue said.
China's first lady has won international praise for her glamour and style that were on display when she accompanied President Xi Jinping on official trips last month. Foreign media compared her to US first lady Michelle Obama, and many Chinese people were dazzled by Peng and hoped she could improve China’s image abroad.
But would Peng be even capable of running such an organisation?
Xue said she was confident the first lady would be up to the job, given her role as a major general in PLA and a former member of the national political consultative body. She has also been WHO's goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/Aids since 2011.
More important, her special identity as first lady, Xue added, could perhaps help the Red Cross tackle deadlock within the system and push reform.
"Some of my friends do not think it is realistic, but the majority of my friends supported this idea,” Xue said.