PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 1:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

China Red Cross donations in doubt after new figures show discrepancies


Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui

A public outcry against missing donations by the Red Cross Society of China has morphed into subdued scepticism after the Ministry of Civil Affairs reviewed figures at the weekend that indicated considerable amount of funds had disappeared. 

On Friday, the ministry, which is charged with supervising charity organisations, had published how much charities nationwide had collected for rescue and reconstruction efforts in Sichuan province after the April 20 earthquake.

The press release indicated that both arms of the Chinese Red Cross had collected some 158.8 million yuan (HK$200 million) in funds and material up to May 9.

The Southern Metropolis Daily compared the figure with that reported by the Red Cross on its Sina Weibo microblog and found a discrepancy of 463,200 yuan. The report by the Guangzhou-based daily on Saturday led to an outpouring of anger against the charity on social media. 

On Sunday, the ministry issued a "supplementary statement" that said the discrepancy was caused by different cut-off dates and published new figures that added up.

But the damage may already be done. "You can believe what they say or not, I certainly don't," a commenter posted online. "You can donate or not, I certainly won't."

The questions raised had hit a nerve as the charity is still reeling from a damaged reputation after the Guo Meimei scandal in 2011, in which a young woman who claimed to work for the Red Cross flaunted her extraordinary wealth.

Ever since, the Chinese Red Cross has struggled to collect donations. The ministry's data shows that other charities have managed to collect several times as much as the country's flagship charity.


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