A plan by a Chinese philanthropist to hand out hundreds of millions of NT dollars to some of Taiwan’s poorest families ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday has drawn a mixed response from municipal authorities and a good deal of criticism.
Several small counties have embraced the idea with open arms.
However, the conditions that Chen Guangbiao (陳光標), a tycoon who made his fortune by recycling construction materials, has set for giving the money — which include handing the cash over personally and doing so under his name — appear to have failed to convince other municipalities.
“We don’t want to see [the recipients] rounded up and have the [donations] take place in a high-profile manner,” New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said. “We still need to have some respect for the people that need our help.”
New Taipei City and Taoyuan County are two municipalities that have made it clear that Chen’s money would not be accepted. Other cities, including Taipei and Greater Kaohsiung, said they have not yet been approached by Chen to take part of the “Gratitude Trip” he plans to stage.
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday that Chen plans to bring a group of 50 Chinese industrialists to Taiwan on Thursday and has pledged to give up to NT$500 million (US$17.2 million) during a tour of the country, which will begin over the weekend.
Chen has prepared about 50,000 red envelopes embossed with the inscription “The day is cold, the ground freezing but the peoples’ hearts are warm. The Chinese race is one family and a fire in the winter,” the newspaper reported.
Chen was quoted as saying that the large donation this year was in response to an outpouring of popular support from Taiwanese for Chinese earthquake victims in the past. Taiwan donated more than NT$2 billion to victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
However, Chen’s plans, which reportedly include a huge dinner party for 600 disadvantaged people at the Grand Hotel on Saturday, where he plans to hand out some of the red envelopes, have be criticized as being “over the top” by some municipal officials.
Greater Kaohsiung officials said anyone making donations needed to consider the self-respect and equality of recipients, which was why the city insisted that donations to low-income families take place through a municipal fund.
Taoyuan County Government officials said that while donations were rarely turned down, they were put in a bind when Chen rejected using a representative and insisted on distributing his red envelopes in front of the county government offices.
However, Hsinchu and Nantou county officials said they were more than happy to comply with some of Chen’s reported requests.
Both counties have reportedly already chosen their list of 300 recipients, officials said. Nantou County is also planning to send buses to take recipients to and from the county government offices.
“We hope to hold a caring ceremony, we won’t let the people feel like they’re accepting handouts,” Hsinchu County Social Affairs Department director Tsai Kuang-jung (蔡光榮) said.
Chen was ranked No. 223 on Forbes’ list of richest Chinese. His net worth is reportedly 2.8 billion yuan (US$425.4 million).
Chen has promised to leave his entire fortune to charity after his death, the first Chinese billionaire to do so. He was quoted as telling the Sunday Telegraph in October last year that he wanted to create a “charity army” of rich Chinese, who would donate at least 20 percent of their annual profit to good causes.