Zhao Baige, executive vice president and Party secretary of the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), has been relieved of her office, according to a notice on the official website of the RCSC on Tuesday. As the RCSC is still struggling to rebuild its image after a slew of scandals, the reappointment of the post stirred a vortex of controversy over the effect, as well as the prospects of the ongoing reform within the organization.
Zhao took up her role at the RCSC in October, 2011, amid an unprecedented crisis of public confidence caused by the Guo Meimei scandal. Public trust in the RCSC was shattered when Guo falsely claimed to be associated with the society and flaunted her opulent lifestyle on her social media account. Since then, the RCSC has embarked on reform, transforming itself into an open system. It established a third-party supervision committee and launched a website to make public each donation.
Wang Zhenyao, director of the China Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University, said in an interview with China Business News Tuesday that most charity insiders acknowledge the progress that the RCSC has made in the past years, but the improvement was easily diluted when there were negative reports about the society.
The public seemingly has developed a habit of questioning anything the Red Cross does following the string of scandals. When the RCSC sent thousands of cotton quilts to South China's Hainan Province battered by Super Typhoon Rammasun in the summer, it drew widespread criticism over the charity's choice of "unhelpful" and "unreasonable" assistance. However, it is routine practice even in summer to send quilts to typhoon victims due to variable temperatures between day and night in coastal areas.
Last month, Guo Meimei apologized on TV to the Red Cross for fabricating her connections to the organization and undermining its credibility. The RCSC in the wake of her confession called on the public to "please forget about Guo Meimei." However, many Net users accused the RCSC of merely attempting to whitewash itself, which is an even "bigger disgrace."
Zhao in April last year vowed that if she couldn't restore the reputation of the RCSC in two or three years she would resign. Now she has gone before her self-appointed deadline, but public concerns about embezzlement and improper management of charities have yet to be swept away.
Reform can neither be realized overnight, nor rely upon one or two decisive leaders within the RCSC. Under new leadership, the RCSC should deepen its reform to establish an efficient, transparent and standardized system of management, information and supervision. In the process, the public needs to impose rational scrutiny on the organization. Don't let the enthusiasm for reform fade in the face of an overreaction to suspicion.