BEIJING – The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) launched an online platform to disclose donation information, with a test run on Sunday afternoon, in its latest gesture to reassure donors of greater transparency.
The first batch of data will reveal how the charity used donations from more than 100,000 individuals, organizations and corporations after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit Yushu county in Northwest China’s Qinghai province on April 14 last year.
The disaster killed almost 2,700 people and left more than 100,000 homeless.
Donors can check where their money was spent at fabu.redcross.org.cn.
Details will appear later on the charity’s donation income and expenses related to other natural disasters including the Zhouqu landslide in Gansu province last August, the earthquake in Yingjiang county of Yunnan province this year, and Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March.
Wang Rupeng, secretary-general of the RCSC, said on Sunday on Sina Weibo, China’s leading micro-blogging site, that advice and scrutiny from the public are welcome to help improve and complete the database.
In late June, Wang promised the launch of the platform by end-July to rebuild the charity’s credibility following the “Guo Meimei” controversy.
In that incident, a young woman boasted online of her lavish lifestyle and claimed to be a general manager for “Red Cross Commerce”, a group the RCSC said does not exist.
However, her claims led to a public backlash and allegations of corruption and misuse of donations.
The society posted its official account on Sina Weibo on July 4 to show its acceptance of public criticism and willingness to enhance transparency.
On July 30, the RCSC denied online allegations that one of its top officials had been under investigation by discipline authorities.
Thousands of online posts on Sina Weibo since July 29 have claimed that disciplinary authorities were probing an RCSC vice-president and had closed his office.
Online posts also claimed that “Guo Meimei” was taken into police custody on July 29.
An official with the RCSC who spoke on condition of anonymity told Xinhua News Agency: “No one from the Red Cross Society was taken away (by discipline authorities).”
He added that the charity had no way to verify whether “Guo” was taken away by police, implying “Guo” has no links to the organization.
Zhong Hongwu, director of the corporate social responsibility research institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said credit should be given to the RCSC to have come up with several measures in a month to meet public expectations for financial transparency and overall accountability.
Donors have every right to voice concern about charity organizations’ operations but should also be patient to see gradual improvements, instead of overnight changes.
Efforts like running the online platform and adopting a more detailed managerial approach will require resources and time, Zhong said.
He said an effective way for RCSC to regain public confidence is to announce concrete steps and a feasible timetable to make itself more transparent. Then, the public will show greater patience and more understanding of the practical difficulties.