08/18/2011, 00.00
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New corruption charges against the Red Cross and other charities

The Red Cross is accused of keeping portion of funds raised for the treatment of a girl with leukaemia. A public television network accuses the China Charity Federation of selling the invoices of tax-deductible donations. Expert calls for greater transparency to regain public trust.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More scandals are rocking China’s charities. Zhang Shiliang, the father of a four-year-old leukaemia patient, has accused the Red Cross Society of China of keeping 50,000 yuan of charity-auction funds meant to go towards his daughter's medical bills. In another blow, the China Charity Federation is accused of charging handling fees for tax-deductible donations.

Zhang, a migrant from Hunan, said that Li Yidong, a man he knew through blogging promised last month that he would try to raise 80,000 yuan at a charity auction held through the Angel Fund, a fund-raising agency set up in 2005 under the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, a subsidiary of the Red Cross Society.

As the pronunciation of Zhang’s daughter's name Ziling was similar to that of Zhang Zilin, Miss World 2007, Li invited the beauty queen to take part in the charity event. She agreed and brought a teapot from her collection to be sold at the auction on 2 July.

Li's company bid 80,000 yuan for the teapot, and the beauty queen handed a ceremonial cheque for that amount for Zhang Shiliang and his daughter.

However, Zhang said the Angel Fund then sent him a notice that he was entitled to a one-off charity payment of no more than 30,000 yuan, asking him to sign a statement of acceptance.

Zhang explained that later he was promised the remaining 50,000 yuan but saw it as “a trap” and refused to sign.

Chinese Red Cross Foundation spokeswoman Li Jing stated there had been a mistake and that all the money would go for the girl’s medical treatment.

Meanwhile the China Charity Federation, the mainland’s second most important charity after the Red Cross, has been accused of charging a 50,000-yuan handling fee to the Beijing Chuangxinzhongyi company before it would issue an invoice for tax deduction.

Today, the China Charity Federation on its website said that the 50,000 yuan was a donation to cover its administrative fees since it does not receive public funds and must find money to finance its activities.

However, Central China Television (CCTV) revealed that Suntech, Beijing Chuangxinzhongyi’s parent company, had pledged to give solar panel and other products worth 15 million yuan for a total of 2 million yuan in tax deductions.

Luo Fanhua, a former employee of the Copyright Society of China, accused the China Charity Federation of selling the invoices in exchange for cash. Once the charity gets it, it does not check whether the promised donation is ever delivered.

The CCTV revealed that 200 schools had only received one solar panel each, even though the donor had promised to donate 3,700 panels said to be worth 17 million yuan.

Citing a former deputy manager of the Suntech subsidiary in charge of the distribution, CCTV said that the missing panels had been sold for 5.9 million yuan.

China Charity Federation Secretary General Liu Guolin told CCTV that he was not sure if the solar panels donated last year had been sold, but promised to conduct an investigation. The company promised all donations would be distributed before the end of this year.

Many Chinese charities have been marred in scandals. In recent years, their credibility has taken a major hit. The Red Cross has been accused of not recording all the money it receives from donors. Members of the Red Cross have also been accused of using donations for personal use like dinner, rather than charity.

Professor Wang Ming, from Tsinghua University's Non-governmental Organisation Research Centre, said, "Our government should make rules to demand all NGOs improve transparency."
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