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Bicycle Thieves: China's Red Cross Caught Red-Handed, Again

Red Cross officials in China are in the middle of a scandal, yet again. After being caught paying for restaurant bills and luxury cars with public donations, the latest alleged faux philanthropy employed a bicycle scam to take people for a ride.

Repairing a Chinese bicycle in Beijing (Kim S)
Repairing a Chinese bicycle in Beijing (Kim S)


BEIJING - Normally, people are thanked for their good deeds. Such is not the case in China.

The Red Cross Society of China has once again managed to draw an unwanted wave of attention to itself. In the central province of Shaanxi, a branch of the humanitarian organization, operating under China's State Council, has been donating thousands of bicycles to various local state-run companies. The bikes were given to retired staff members – some of them too old to ride a bicycle. Each of these bikes was claimed to be worth around $115, although you can buy such a bike at any market for $15. But even in China you don't get much for that price: they are poorly made bikes built by hand from counterfeit parts in a family-run workshop.

In brief, someone has been using a supposedly friendly offer of a bicycle to embezzle cash from the coffers of public donations made in the name of a charity.

According to the Chinese Business View, a Shaanxi local newspaper, the Chinese Red Cross decided to donate more than ten thousand bikes. Guo Gonli, manager of the AVIC Aircraft Company, one of the beneficiaries of the bicycles, told the newspaper that they had received 2000 of them. But before the bikes were all distributed, he had received so many complaints and returns that he called the Chinese Red Cross to take them back. Two hundred of these bikes are still lying in the swimming pool of the factory. How they got there is not clear.

Restaurant bills, luxury cars

Like other philanthropic organizations, the Chinese Red Cross claims that the funds it raises are destined for humanitarian relief, student aid programs and improving rural health conditions in poor areas.

The problem is that, as a government-run charitable organization, not only is the Chinese Red Cross too bureaucratic, but it also lacks public scrutiny of private donations. Unscrupulous officials have a free hand in disposing of the money.

Last year, a series of scandals in this organization generated a huge public outcry. One of its Shanghai executives was exposed as using the charity's funds at a restaurant. Even better, the organization's top officials in Beijing were said to have two luxury cars each. If it was you, would you go for a BMW series 7 or an Audi A8 or both? This is humanitarian relief on a grand scale. Not surprisingly these revelations provoked a crisis of confidence and the organization has since suffered a sharp drop in donations.

But this latest alleged scam reaches new heights in creativity. China's TV and film industry could use the imaginative talents of the official who invented the bicycle scheme. Is it too much to hope that he will now turn his attention to script writing?

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Kim S

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food / travel

Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

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”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

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