The country's only national Red Cross society is fighting to hang on to the public's trust after a scandal erupted in which a 20-year-old woman, who claimed to have a link to the society, boasted online about her luxurious lifestyle and triggered concern that donated money was being misused.
The woman talked about her extravagant lifestyle on her micro blog and claimed to be the general manager of a company called Red Cross Commerce,which she said handled advertising on Red Cross vehicles.
Netizens questioned whether the woman named Guo Meimei had financed her lifestyle out of money that had been donated to the society. Some even said angrily they would never donate to the society again.
The row broke after Guo uploaded pictures of what she claimed were her Maserati and Lamborghini cars, expensive handbags and palatial villa.
She has since become the hottest topic on the country's major micro blog website, weibo.com. The number of her "fans" on the microblog shot up from several hundred to more than 108,000 by Thursday night.
A "V" sign on Guo Meimei's page, meaning that her personal information had been checked and verified by Sina Corp, the operator of Weibo.com, has been removed.
In a statement, Weibo said Guo had previously said in her personal information that she was an actress and, after approval, she changed it to"general manager of Red Cross Commerce".
Weibo apologized to the Red Cross and its users for failing to carefully review Guo Meimei's information and pledged to tighten up the verification process.
Faced with a huge number of angry netizens asking for an explanation, the Red Cross society posted an announcement on its homepage,saying there was no such company as Red Cross Commerce under the Red Cross Society of China and noting that the organization did not have an employee named Guo Meimei.
"We only use 999 ambulances, on which we never print advertisements," said Ding Shuo, the director of the society's policy andregulation department, on Thursday.
However, the announcement failed to calm many netizens' anger and online sleuths continued to dig for evidence and raise questions.
One netizen claimed to have connected Guo Meimei to the Red Cross Society of China's vice-president, Guo Changjiang, and alleged that GuoChangjiang 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.