Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Guo Meimei and the China Red Cross Scandal

Pictured: 'Guo Meimei Baby'

The incident has ignited debate regarding corporate social responsibility in Asia.

CHINA'S Red Cross Society on Wednesday was forced to explain several discrepancies in its budget last year, as it battles to quell public anger and mistrust following accusations of corruption.

The aid agency has been hit with claims that a young woman who posted photos online flaunting her wealth is the daughter of one of its vice presidents, and that her lavish lifestyle is being bankrolled by embezzled charity funds.

On Monday, the state auditor also said it had found five problems in its review of the Red Cross' 2010 budget, such as money allocated for training that did not take place, further fuelling suspicion about how donations are used.

So, she has taken the Asian internet by storm. 20-year old Guo Meimei has been the #1 search item on Baidu (the Chinese equivalent of "google") and the subject of much debate: Guo Meimei showcases her lavish lifestyle on her Sina micro blog— she lives in a villa, owns several luxury sport cars and expensive handbags from international brands.

"The row broke after Guo uploaded pictures of what she claimed were her Maserati and Lamborghini cars... She has since become the hottest topic on the country's major micro blog website, weibo.com (the Chinese version of "twitter") . The number of her "fans" on the micro blog shot up from several hundred to more than 108,000 by Thursday night." [1] (AS of now, 309,300+!)

Just like in the USA, SMS messaging plays a role in the unfolding story: "One netizen claimed to have connected Guo Meimei to the Red Cross Society of China's vice-president, Guo Changjiang, and alleged that Guo Changjiang had a micro blog of his own that followed only four other people's micro blogs. One of the four allegedly belonged to Guo Meimei.

In response, Guo Changjiang said Guo Meimei was not his daughter and later shut down his micro blog."[2]

DAMAGE CONTROL ::: On Wednesday, Guo Meimei herself wrote on her micro blog that she had no relationship with the Red Cross Society of China or Guo Changjiang, and that she was indeed an actress and hurt by the negative responses:
"I am an actress the rumors have hurt me," she wrote. "I and my family members are taxpayers. How can people attack us about how we spend our money?"
And indeed, curious netizens uncovered that, in the past she worked as a model and actress, in Shenzhen, but was little known to the public. Her family apparently is not wealthy, and are said to now be wondering how, in the last two years, she has become this rich.

"The conclusion appeared to be obvious: Guo was siphoning off charitable donations to fund her lavish lifestyle. The Red Cross was forced to set the record straight. There was no such thing as the Red Cross Commerce Association and Guo had no connection whatsoever to the Red Cross, it said." [3]

Fauna @chinaSMACK has written up a summary ::: the complete saga of Guo Meimei.

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