Donations to China’s Red Cross dropped nearly 60 percent in 2011, according to a recent government report.

The Red Cross Society of China received a total of 2.87 yuan (US$451 million) in donations over the previous year, 59.39 percent less than in 2010.

The June 28 report was published by the China Charity Information Center, a group administered by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Pic: CFP

China’s Red Cross has struggled to rebuild its reputation and regain public trust since the Guo Meimei scandal broke over one year ago, sparking  accusations of corruption and misuse of donated funds.

Last month, the organization launched a joint campaign with the Ministry of Health to inspect the over 2,000 hospitals that operate under the Red Cross name.  The move came after a series of complaints of medical malpractice at Red Cross- affiliated hospitals.

On June 1, the Red Cross announced that Shi Jinlong, the director of its Xi’an branch, had been fired for mishandling a charity drive to benefit retired workers and poor students.

An official statement claimed that Shi had violated fundraising and management rules, but denied that any evidence existed that he had personally benefited from collected donations.

Zhao Baige, executive vice president of the Red Cross Society of China, recently promised that the organization will establish watchdog groups to supervise major charity projects and ensure that donations are properly used.

“I was shocked that an organization with a history of more than 100 years could almost be wrecked by a 20-something woman in just three days,” Zhao said, referring to the Guo Meimei scandal in an interview with the China Daily.

The Red Cross is not the only organization to report a drop in donations.  The total amount of money donated to charity in 2011 fell 17.7 percent from the previous year, according to China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The ministry reported that charitable contributions in 2011 totaled 49.5 billion yuan (US $7.86 billion), compared to 60.1 billion in 2010.

Officials pointed to recent scandals in explaining the decline, specifically mentioning the Red Cross’s troubles, but other factors were named as well.

“In China, people’s willingness to give is ‘disaster-driven,’” said Deng Guosheng, a professor at Tsinghua University specializing in philanthropy.

Speaking to the China Daily, Deng suggested that a lack of high-profile disasters in 2011 meant that there was less public awareness of the need for donations than in previous years.