A lunch that costs 9,858 yuan, or $1520, is undoubtedly an extravagance. It inevitably turns into a scandal if the lunch expense is reimbursed with public funds with no specified reason. On April 15, a net user uploaded a picture of an invoice, which shows that Red Cross Society of Shanghai’s Luwan District plunked down more than twice of the city’s per capita monthly income on one meal. It once again fuels public anger over luxury lifestyle and embezzlement.
The restaurant they dined at is actually an exclusive lounge bar where minimum expense is 488 yuan ($75) per head. On Dianping.com, Chinese copycat of Yelp, some netizens wrote in review for the lounge bar, “A place where you eat for the décor. Most come for official reception meals.”
Shanghai Red Cross, which administers the district branch, responded to the news by saying, “The source that they drew money from is the administrative expenditure rather than relief or donations. It was for Luwan District’s business meeting with an entrepreneurship association. 17 people attended. It exceeded the standard reception expense of 150 yuan, or $23 per person. A total of 7,309 yuan in excess of that limit should be rejected as reimbursement and be paid by individuals.”
China does not have laws or regulations which allow the establishment of non-governmental public fund-raising foundations. The Chinese Red Cross is currently run by the government and receives government subsidies and grants besides contributions from the public. Therefore, the so-called administrative expenses either come from tax payers or contributors, who definitely mean their money for the greater good.
After the most terrible earthquake in recent Chinese history hit southwestern Sichuan province in 2008, Chinese Red Cross was once questioned by the public for misappropriating donations and disaster relief.
The lavish feast has inspired the call for boycotting the Chinese Red Cross out of concern that if the only punishment for the 17 people who squandered public money is footing their own bills, such abuse of funds would certainly happen again. Chinese celebrity blogger Wu Yue San Ren (五岳散人), suggested on his Sina microblog, “Before the Red Cross makes public its finances, invites society’s scrutiny, and punishes those involved in this matter, I suggest not to donate for, or pay attention to, or spread the information of any of its activities.” Within one day, over 10,000 users shared the message and 2,700 commented on the post.
Selected comments on the call from Sina Microblog.
皮特6656: I have never trusted them. Let’s make in-kind donations. What do you think?
林晨1003: Faint. I guess my previous donations were for nothing but their astronomically pricy meals. I can’t afford such a meal myself, and I donated money to let you eat it. What kind of era is that? I think today’s Communist Party is even beneath yesterday’s Nationalist Party.
古道Block2: They go damn broke in credit!
宁夏少儿毛毛: China’s charity works have always been like this.
冠月明金: If I have money, I will donate myself to people in need to avoid layers after layers of sieves.
玉树临风1860: Red Cross, Red Cross! How many good hearts your 10,000-yuan meal has hurt? How many good deeds will continue? If the disaster-hit area can’t get relief on time, and people can’t help on time, you guys will be the arch-criminal!
罗锦鳞: I agree! Is rejection of reimbursement enough? Don’t treat the people like idiots! A friend of mine told me yesterday that they have always been using two sets of account books!
徐小平: Red Cross gets its money from the society. Making public its finances is what it has to do most. If we want a transparent government, start from here.
郭霆-创业者: Ever since my donation was swallowed by the government at the time of the earthquake, I have never made any donation to government-run charities. Not a cent!
灿烂艳阳夏: Support!! Transparency of finances is a must-have.
合肥老母鸡: In the damned heavenly kingdom, it is hard to find trustworthy food. And hard to find trustworthy organizations too?
幸福乐宜: Have always been suspecting where the donations go. Now it’s truly confirmed to be feeding the bunch of bastards.