Former minister of justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) 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 group, received the votes of 107 out of 112 representatives at a meeting in which two representatives from New Taipei City (新北市) and Taichung flipped over 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 said that the society’s endeavors would move people emotionally and “do Taiwan proud” on the international stage. The election was postponed from a previous meeting on April 23 because of opposition to the merger proposal, which was again not put to a vote on Friday. The new proposal represents an effort by the Red Cross Society’s headquarters to change the Red Cross Society Act of the Republic of China (中華民國紅十字會法) 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 last year’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the headquarters or gave the money to other Japanese charities instead of to 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, Deputy Secretary-General Lin Hsiu-fen (林秀芬) said.
Chang Meng-yu (張孟喻), head of the New Taipei City branch, said he would resign from the post and found another Red Cross Society while proposing the abolition 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 Associations Act (人民團體法) and related regulations governing charitable collection that govern other charities, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said last month.
However, Wang said that the act ensures the society’s neutrality in carrying out humanitarian missions during conflicts and disasters, because it is different from 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.