China’s Red Cross under attack for ‘bizarre’ donation

By Laura He, MarketWatch


Residents travel on a street blocked by fallen electricity poles after Typhoon Rammasun hits Leizhou, in China’s Guangdong province.

HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — As China’s Red Cross struggles to win back public trust after a major scandal in 2011, the country’s largest charity is now under fire again for what some are calling a “bizarre” donation.

After Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest such storm in 41 years, hit southern China in recent days, the Red Cross Society of China immediately donated several thousand quilts and jackets to the affected area, a report by state-run Xinhua News Agency said on Monday. This, even as the region struck by the weather system is suffering from a summer heat wave with an average temperature of 95 ºF.

“What the victims need are summer sleeping mats and towels, but quilts definitely have no use,” the report quoted local government officials in the typhoon-hit city of Zhanjiang as saying.

“Donating quilts in summer is quite a bizarre way to do disaster relief,” the state-run Guangzhou Daily newspaper said on its Weibo microblogging account Monday.

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Some critics called for the Red Cross to make public how it bought the quilts and jackets.

“Is there any related party transaction [behind this matter]? We need know the prices, time and related manufacturers [of the quilts], as there exists room for rent-seeking,” Zhou Xiaoyun, a political commentator, said on his Weibo account.

China’s Red Cross has close ties to the government, which appoints some of the officials at the relief organization.

A senior official at China’s Red Cross defended the donations, saying that quilts can be used for multiple purposes in distressed areas and is a traditional relief supply.

Besides, “the temperature differences between day and night” make quilts necessary despite the hot daytime weather in the area, the Chinese Red Cross deputy director of relief and health, Yang Xusheng, was quoted as saying in the government-owned Beijing Youth Daily.

China’s Red Cross has been fighting to regain credibility after a crisis in 2011, when 20-year-old Guo Meimei showed off her luxurious lifestyle in Weibo postings carrying her verified title of “commercial general manager” for the “China Red Cross Chamber of Commerce.”

The posts stirred public anger and questions over the trustworthiness of China’s Red Cross.

Despite the Red Cross’ denial of any direct connection with Guo, there have been ongoing calls for it and other charitable organizations in China to increase their transparency to the public.

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Laura He is a MarketWatch reporter based in Hong Kong. Follow Laura on Twitter at: @lauraliuhe. – Top Stories

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