08/12/2011, 00.00
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Chinese Red Cross "volunteers" sell insurance

At medical centres in Beijing, insurance agents exploit public trust to gain contracts. For months the organisation has been at the centre of controversy and accused of "wasting" resources. Meanwhile, donations plummet.
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) is using its image to promote the sale of insurance contracts. The complaint has been investigated by the China Central Television (CCT). For months, the organisation has been the subject of heated controversy, with the insistent suspicion of misuse of its funds.

According to CCT, many medical centres and volunteers of the Red Cross in Beijing are agents for China Life, a leading insurance company. CCT explains that in 2008 there was an agreement between China Life and Red Cross Commerce, referred to as the commercial section of RCSC, for which the insurance company has provided 1.2 million Yuan to the activities of medical centres in Beijing otherwise deprived of funds and forced to close. In return the company was able to deploy its officers at such centres, who, appearing under the auspices of the RCSC, overcome the normal public distrust allowing them to better explain and sell their products.

The RCSC has not commented on, or denied the report, which is a top story in Chinese media.

Recently the agency has been accused of using funds not for institutional purposes but for personal benefits of the charity’s executives, for example to pay for expensive lunches (9859 Yuan, 1,585 dollars for a dinner in Shanghai in April). In an attempt to defend itself, in recent weeks the RCSC has made public the donations received from January 2010, including those intended to aid the earthquake of Yushu (Qinghai) in April 2010. But the information does not explain how the funds for Yushu were used.

The site had 18 million visits in a few days and many visitors have indicated incorrect or incredible data. For example, the famous actor Jacky Chan is shown to have made six donations in April 23, 2010, but of only 10 fen (10 fen = 1 Yuan) per donation. The Jet Li Foundation is credited to have made 13 donations from 100 to 15 thousand Yuan, but the Foundation claims to have donated 2 million Yuan in cash and aid since 2010.

Responding to the many reports of inaccuracies, the RCSC claimed they were errors and acknowledged the possibility of a waste of resources, but gave no further explanation other than to deny corruption.

Furthermore, the data failed to mention the donations received by the Chinese Red Cross Foundation affiliate or local Red Cross. With the disappearance of the public trust donations have plummeted: in July, the Shenzhen Red Cross received donations for as little as 5 thousand yuan, and a hospital run by the Red Cross in Foshan (Guangdong) has not received anything despite having declared 886 thousand Yuan in donations in June.

The Chinese population is generous: the Ministry of Civil Affairs statistics show that in 2010 there were donations topping 100 billion Yuan. But experts believe that the RCSC must pursue maximum transparency and disclose all information in a comprehensive manner, if it wants to regain public trust.
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