Last Friday, a microblogger posted a receipt from a lunch held for 17 people by the Luwan Shanghai Red Cross totaling 9,859RMB (about $1,500.) Now dubbed the “million dollar meal“, the revelation has enraged the public and led to calls for a boycott and an audit of all expenditures made by the organization. Red Cross Shanghai has been quick to ineptly defend itself by clarifying that they are in fact a government body with a government-provided administrative budget that doesn’t come from donations. In his almost comical defense (if it weren’t so downright enraging), here’s Global Times quoting Tian Yongbo, a former publicity officer for Red Cross Shanghai:
“Our annual budget from the government is too much to be used up, so why would we use donations?” Tian said.
Well played, Tian. Apparently Red Cross Shanghai is so baller right now they could care less about your petty cash. And as if they could possibly have more important things to spend their government budget on than lunch…
Tian did admit the amount was overly high (they officially allot 150RMB per person for these kinds of things), and Red Cross has apologized and promised to collect the difference from the attendees themselves.
But the firestorm of controversy is alight, and calls for a full audit of Red Cross’s expenses (including gifts, entertainment, food, etc.) are raging. A Sina Weibo message calling for a halt in donations until such an audit took place was forwarded more than 10,000 times.
It all strikes straight at the root of the problem with charity in China. Non-profits aren’t allowed to operate independently of the government, so you end up with an aid structure even MORE entangled in bureaucratic bullshit than the normal, non-governmental aid structure.
Next time disaster strikes, it’s irresponsibility like this that will likely lead more Chinese to skip their local fundraiser. In a poll conducted by Shandong Business Daily, 90% of respondents said they have lost faith in the Red Cross. As if charity in China weren’t struggling enough in already.
Makes one think maybe roadshow philanthropist Chen Guangbiao’s got the right idea for China: let’s all just blast our money straight at the the less fortunate, bypassing aid organizations (and humility) along the way.
Infographic: China nears bottom of list in World Giving Index