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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)

*NEWSBITES

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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