An Online Scandal Underscores Chinese Distrust of Its Charities (Updated)

The New York Times reports on the scandal of pseudonymous microblogger Guo Meimei Baby, a 20-year-old woman who flaunted her luxurious lifetyle while stating that she worked for the Red Cross Society of China, thereby launching a national discussion about corruption among charities in China (Update: It has been confirmed that Guo Meimei’s boyfriend is an influential charity official, who had gifted her with many of the luxurious items she has flaunted, according to China Media Project.):

None of it was outrageous by the standards of China’s nouveau riche. What ignited a firestorm was the fact that the woman, Guo Meimei, 20, appeared to hold a senior position at the Red Cross Society of China, a government organization that is the country’s largest charity. Under the name “Guo Meimei Baby,” she had boasted on her microblog that her title was “commercial general manager” at the Red Cross, a claim that had apparently been verified by Sina, the Internet company hosting the microblog.

At the same time, she posted photos and entries detailing her jet-set life, writing of the orange Lamborghini she drove in the south (her “little bull”) and the white Maserati she had in Beijing (her “little horse”).

Since an Internet user pointed out the scandalous posts in late June, Ms. Guo and the Red Cross have been the most talked-about subjects on the Chinese Internet. The Red Cross of China, which has no relationship to its international namesake, has denied any ties to Ms. Guo, who some Internet users speculate got her title because she is the mistress or relative of a top Red Cross official. The police are investigating her.

Some people fear the scandal and the accompanying increase in suspicions of corruption in charities could deal a major blow to philanthropy here, even as some officials increasingly rely on nonprofit groups to deal with growing social needs like health care and education.

The case of Guo Meimei Baby has been widely covered by chinaSMACK, ChinaWhispers, China Buzz, Shanghaiist and other China blogs. See also: “Charitable Donations Transparency in China” from the Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia blog. See more photos of Guo Meimei Baby and her indulgent lifestyle.

July 3, 2011 4:05 PM
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