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Red Cross Society elects new leader amid restructuring dispute

2012/05/25 21:23:58

Taipei, May 25 (CNA) Former Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng was elected as the new president of Taiwan's Red Cross Society on Friday amid a controversy over the charity's attempt to restructure its operations.

Wang, a former vice president of the society, received the votes of 107 out of 112 representatives at a meeting in which two representatives from New Taipei and Taichung flipped a table and smashed microphones to protest a proposal to merge the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China's headquarters and branches.

"We will continue to communicate and negotiate. Then we'll try to do our best to embody the spirit of universal love, humanity and volunteerism, that is, devotion," Wang said.

She also vowed that the society's endeavors would move people emotionally and do Taiwan proud on the international stage.

The election was postponed at a previous meeting on April 23 because of opposition to the proposal, which was again not put to a vote Friday.

The new proposal represents an effort by the Red Cross Society's headquarters to change the Red Cross Society Act and integrate the operations of the branches, which are supervised by city and county governments.

A revision proposed by the Ministry of the Interior would go further, abolishing the current system of two tiers of branches, with five large regional branches and smaller branches under them.

The idea to restructure the society's operations arose earlier this year, when local media reported that some of the branches failed to submit donations intended for relief efforts following the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan to the headquarters or gave the money to other Japanese charities instead of the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Under the existing law, the society's headquarters does not have the right to intervene in the finances and personnel arrangements of its branches, even though it is higher up in the group's organization, said Lin Hsiu-fen, the society's deputy secretary-general.

Chang Meng-yu, head of the New Taipei branch, said he would resign from the post and found another Red Cross Society while proposing the abolishment of the Red Cross Society Act because the law gave the society an unfair advantage in competing with other private charities.

The law has given the society a special legal status that exempts it from rules laid out in the Civil Organizations Act and the Public Charitable Collection Regulation, which govern other charities, Tuan Yi-kang, a Democratic Progressive Party legislator charged last month.

Wang argued, however, that the act would ensure the society's neutrality in carrying out humanitarian missions during conflicts and disasters, because it is different from the other charities.

The restructuring would also help merge the resources of the 26 branches with the society's headquarters to better provide social services, she added.

Also on Friday, former Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan, the Kaohsiung branch's deputy director Chang Tiao and the society's incumbent Vice President Chen Feng-yi were elected as Wang's deputies.

(By Chen Ching-fang and Kendra Lin)