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How an Ex-prostitute and Gambling Ring Member Ruined the Image of China’s Red Cross

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Guo Meimei, a controversial figure in the Chinese media, is back in the spotlight for prostitution and gambling.

Back in 2011, a 20 year-old woman stirred controversy after she flaunted her wealth by bragging about her Maserati and showing off her expensive bags on social media, while at the same time claiming she managed an organization under the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC).

Her behavior caused public outrage and the name Guo Meimei was on everyone’s lips, at that time. But the scandal had worse consequences for the state-owned RCSC, ruining its image and causing a massive drop in donations, as people were worried that all those charity funds were being embezzled.

Now 23, Guo Meimei is back under the media spotlight. This time the stories are even spicier as Chinese gambling news report she was involved in sex trade and illegal gambling.

Prostitution and gambling

The local “celebrity” could be facing prison this time, newspapers say. She has allegedly confessed to breaking Chinese gambling laws, as well as getting involved in prostitution. The police arrested her at the beginning of July, after finding out that she was part of an illegal gambling operation during the World Cup.

The only two parts of China where gambling is legal are Macau and Hong Kong, both considered to be Special Administrative Regions. Macau has casinos, while Hong Kong allows betting on horse races.

In all started in February 2013, when Guo and her boyfriend began sending out invitations for people to come play casino games in a rented house. The leaders of the illegal operation retained between 3 and 5% of the funds for themselves, authorities said.

The police also claims that Guo had participated in the sex trade “many times”. She was charging her client hundreds of thousands of yuan. Just like casino games, prostitution is forbidden by law in China.

Guo confessed that, in July 2013, she flew to the province of Guangdong in southern China, in order to meet up with a man who had offered to pay her 50,000 yuan (S$10,000) up front. He said he would pay her another 400,000 yuan to have sex with him.

The woman had a personal assistant, Lu, who also revealed a few things about her in a confession to the police. Lu said the woman often travelled under the guise of “commercial performance”, but in fact did this to meet with men, stay with them in hotels overnight and have sex with them.

“I would find bundles of cash when I packed for her the next day,” Lu told the police.

A wealth from illegal activity

In mid-2011, the young woman appeared on social media channels, and then in the news, flaunting her extravagant lifestyle but claiming that her money came from work she was doing for a charity organization.

This obviously had a negative effect, as people did not want to donate to the Red Cross anymore. The public became concerned over how the state spends these funds, and the state-run charity has been struggling to regain trust ever since.

But Now the Beijing police discovered that most of Guo’s wealth came from illegal gambling and sex trade. Some of it came from commercial performances, including singing. In her confession, she apologized to the Red Cross, to “all of society” and to “the people who cannot get aid from the Red Cross” because of her false claims.

“I feel very regretful thinking about what I have done over the past several years. I will never gamble, flaunt wealth or do anything to violate the law or morality again,” Guo confessed, and added that she had nothing to do with the Red Cross Society of China.

“None of my relatives and friends, including my ex-boyfriend, were staff members of the RCSC. I didn’t know anyone from the Red Cross. I made a huge mistake to gratify my vanity,” she told the investigators.

Repairing the damage

According to the Chinese Charity and Donation Information Center, donations decreased by 23.68% in 2012. The public has just found out about Guo’s lies, but it will still take a long time before the Red Cross manages to repair the damage that has been done.

Tao Chuanjin, director of the Research Center of Philanthropy and Social Enterprise at Beijing Normal University, said: “From the start, Guo’s comments were not trustworthy, but still triggered the credibility crisis. It showed the public already had doubts about how the society works.”

“The scandal helped us to reflect on how charity work is done in China. Instead of relying on government institutions, people began to establish their own platforms and foundations to operate in a different way. The public has more choices than before,” he added.

The first step taken by the organization was to release a statement denying all rumors. In addition, the Red Cross promised to improve its transparency, hoping that this would encourage people to make donations again.

Future initiatives include more educational programs designed to teach people about the importance of charity and social work.

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