News / Asia

Chinese Red Cross Still Feeling Impact from 2011 Scandal

Guo Meimei attends a jewelry auction in Beijing, China, Dec. 1, 2013.
Guo Meimei attends a jewelry auction in Beijing, China, Dec. 1, 2013.

On Wednesday, Chinese authorities reported the death toll from Sunday’s earthquake in Yunnan province jumped to 589. As the government and other groups collect donations to help relief, China's largest charity organization - the China Red Cross - continues battling a three-year-old public relations crisis involving a one-time internet celebrity.

Reversal of fortune

The image of Guo Meimei in handcuffs is a far cry from the way she used to advertise herself on social media: a young, rich celebrity with a taste for expensive cars and designer clothes.

The 23-year-old has now confessed on national TV to charges of gambling and prostitution - crimes she was accused of in mid July.
 
During her confession, Guo also apologized for a three year old “mistake,” that triggered her notoriety but also plunged the Red Cross Society of China into a huge credibility crisis.

"I made a huge mistake to gratify my vanity. I want to say sorry to the Red Cross, all of society, and especially to all the people who cannot get aid from the Red Cross,” she said.

In 2011, Guo posed online as a senior manager at the China Red Cross hinting her lavish lifestyle was in fact a product of people's donation to the charity.
 
Guo was at the time rumored to have been the mistress of a high ranking Red Cross official named Wang Jun.  Another Wang Jun, a businessman from Shenzhen, has since come forward saying he was her benefactor, providing Guo with living expenses and a Maserati.

Bad timing

What has surprised many in China was the timing of her televised confession, broadcast on the same day a strong earthquake hit Yunnan province killing hundreds, and just as charity groups around the country started calling for donations.

“Through condemning Guo Meimei as a bad girl, as a criminal, maybe the Red Cross is innocent. The government hopes the people will change their attitude towards the Red Cross,” said Xu Jianhua, professor of sociology at the University of Macau..

A woman cries over an album on the debris of her house at the earthquake zone of Longtoushan town, Ludian county, Zhaotong, Yunan province, China, Aug. 6, 2014.A woman cries over an album on the debris of her house at the earthquake zone of Longtoushan town, Ludian county, Zhaotong, Yunan province, China, Aug. 6, 2014.
x
A woman cries over an album on the debris of her house at the earthquake zone of Longtoushan town, Ludian county, Zhaotong, Yunan province, China, Aug. 6, 2014.
A woman cries over an album on the debris of her house at the earthquake zone of Longtoushan town, Ludian county, Zhaotong, Yunan province, China, Aug. 6, 2014.

This week, the Red Cross Society of China announced it had collected about $5 million in donations to help fund relief efforts in quake-hit areas of Yunnan province.

“This is a relatively small amount, and it shows that people in China still have a distrustful attitude towards the Red Cross, and the effects of the Guo Meimei's scandal have not cleared up yet,” said economics professor Hu Xingdou.

Forget her

In a message of frustration issued through the China Red Cross official microblog earlier this week, the charity called for people in China to “forget Guo Meimei,” and focus on humanitarian relief instead.

But Hu Xingdou said scandals like that with Guo Meimei were the least of problems for big charity groups in China.

“More than 99 percent of charity contributions in China are given to local governments as extra budget income," he said. "How do these governments spend that money is unknown? How can people trust to give money in a system like that?”

He added that national charities in China lack transparency and operate in a black box. It was inevitable, he said, that there would be corruption and with it, mistrust.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More