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May 24, 2013

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Red Cross says students are not forced to join the organization

THE Shanghai branch of the Red Cross Society of China yesterday denied it forced elementary school students in the city to become members of the organization, after some parents said they were charged membership fees from a school in Songjiang District.

A father, surnamed Zhang, told news website he was charged 2 yuan (32 US cents) by the Songjiang Zhongshan Yongfeng Elementary School for his grade one son to become a member of the Red Cross Society of China.

Zhang told the website the school left him no choice as a letter informed him his son has already become a member of the organization, although the boy knew little about it.

Zhang told the website he felt helpless and that his son shouldn't have been forced to become a member of the organization, which is still mired in a credibility crisis for its involvement in a series of scandals.

An official surnamed Hu with the school told Shanghai Daily yesterday that they didn't force anyone to join the organization but they made a mistake.

Hu said the school "forgot to send letters to the parents of its students to ask whether the children are willing to join the organization" before charging the fee.

He said since 1997 the school has asked its students if they want to join the organization by asking them to sign a letter. Most students agree to join the Red Cross as they believe it is a great way to help those in need, Hu added.

He said the 2 yuan membership fee will be given to a subdistrict branch under the Red Cross and the money will be used for charity events or help the needy.

After the students join the Red Cross, the school will organize lectures and events on how to help or save others, Hu said.

An official with the Shanghai branch of the Red Cross Society of China yesterday told Shanghai Daily that students are welcome to join the organization voluntarily but they are never forced to do so.

Forced donations

Last month, some students at an elementary school in the Pudong New Area complained their teachers forced them to donate at least 5 yuan each via the Red Cross to aid earthquake victims in Sichuan Province.

Those who refused to donate money or gave less than 5 yuan were scolded by the teachers, the pupils said.

The Red Cross Society of China is still mired in a credibility crisis two years after a scandal in which Guo Meimei claimed to be a manager with the charity while flaunting her lavish lifestyle online, sparking a public outcry.

A subsequent investigation found Guo never worked for the Red Cross.


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