Thu, Jan 27, 2011 - Page 1 News List

China tycoon comes bearing gifts

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese tycoon and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao (陳光標) arrived in Taiwan last night to begin a controversial “thanksgiving” tour that will see him hand over hundreds of millions of NT dollars.

Chen and a 47-member delegation are set to visit Taipei, and Hsinchu, Nantou and Hualien counties over the next six days, with pledges to give out an estimated NT$500 million (US$17.2 million) to impoverished Taiwanese.

New Taipei City (新北市) and Taoyuan County rejected conditions for the handouts, which reportedly include busing recipients to municipal offices to thank Chen personally for the gifts.

There was no indication that any Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-governed municipalities were contacted as part of the trip, which has been labeled by the DPP as having a political agenda.

Chen, who made his fortune by recycling construction materials, is no stranger to controversy.

He has called his trip a response to the goodwill shown by Taiwanese during earthquakes in China over the past two years.

His glitzy ways have, however, been called “over the top” by municipal officials anxious to avoid a repeat of an appearance in Nanjing last week where he made 15 million yuan (US$2.28 million) into a “cash wall” before giving it away.

On a call-in program on TVBS News on Tuesday night, the 42-year-old caused anger when he said he hoped critics of his visit would “go and learn some Marxist ideas.”

Local media reported that, Chen, ranked No. 223 on Forbes’ list of richest Chinese, plans to hand out 50,000 red envelopes, each containing NT$10,000 in cash. Some of the money was also contributed by other leading Chinese industrialists.

Mixed information from city and county governments has suggested that Chen originally expected recipients to be bused to municipal offices where he could hand over the money personally.

He will, however, allow the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China to accept his NT$3 million donation in Hualien County, after Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) said there was no way to choose between 3,000 disadvantaged households.

Hsinchu County Government’s education bureau will receive a check on behalf of the recipients, while Nantou County Government will comply with Chen’s request to bus recipients to county offices. In Taipei, Chen will hold a dinner at the Grand Hotel where he plans to hand out money to 600 people.

His plans have drawn concerns that he has failed to consider recipients’ rights to respect and privacy. Critics have also said there is no way to fairly decide who should get money.

Some non-profit organizations have also said donations should be handled through social welfare groups better equipped to deal with disadvantaged people.

Politicians, meanwhile, said they hoped to see the entire matter handled in a more “low-profile” manner.

DPP lawmakers said Chen was in Taiwan for more than simply business and charity work.

“I want to remind the Taiwanese people that Chen is only in Taiwan to help Beijing engage in its unification efforts,” said DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), apparently referring to Chen’s “Marxist” comments and the text embossed on his red envelopes, which says “the Chinese race is one family (中華民族一家親).”

Chen is due to make donations in Hsinchu County tomorrow, Nantou County and Taipei on Saturday and Hualien County on Sunday. He is also expected to visit the Taipei Flora Expo the day before his departure on Tuesday.

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