Yaan earthquake

Hong Kong Red Cross vows to monitor use of Yaan quake donations

Hongkongers worry corrupt mainland officials could misuse Yaan quake funds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 6:20am

The Hong Kong Red Cross has promised to monitor the use of the HK$12 million it has received in donations to help survivors of last month's earthquake in Sichuan province.

The charity's pledge came amid mounting local distrust of mainland relief work. Critics fear any contributions might end up lining the pockets of corrupt officials.

In the two weeks since the April 20 disaster in Yaan , the Red Cross had received HK$12 million, the local branch of the international charity said yesterday.

About HK$2 million has been mobilised for its relief operation, with 20 relief and rehabilitation workers now working in the affected areas. The Red Cross has now turned its attention to the start of reconstruction work.

"The purchase of relief materials, the choice of reconstruction locations, the tender process, the reconstruction work and the quality assessment - the Hong Kong Red Cross will be involved all the way," deputy secretary general Bonnie So Yuen-han said.

Construction firms would not be paid in full until rebuilt facilities were proven to be running smoothly, So added.

"After big projects are completed, we will withhold 3 to 5 per cent of the bill as a quality assurance fee," she said. "We will revisit the school or hospital in two years to check on their performance, and will give the construction company [the fee] only when there is no more problem."

She sought to reassure donors after trust in the mainland's largest charity, the Red Cross Society of China, fell to a new low, with internet users telling it to "get lost" after the quake.

The society admitted recently that more than 80 million yuan (HK$101 million) donated by more than 100 Chinese artists to build an art school and fund other reconstruction work after a quake devastated the same province in 2008 had been spent elsewhere.

This time, the Hong Kong branch has asked its mainland counterpart to keep a separate bank account for funds from the city, a practice it says it maintains in other big relief projects as well.

The Red Cross said that from April 25 to May 1, its teams in Sichuan had given out more than 180 vehicle-loads of supplies. Its representatives will revisit areas next month to ensure the supplies have reached those in need.

Aid distribution had been more efficient than in the 2008 disaster but there had been some minor confusion, Red Cross officer Harry Choi Sui-sing admitted.

"Turtle jelly [Chinese medicine made from turtle shell] was sent," Choi said.