Eccentric Chinese millionaire Chen Guangbiao hosted a lavish luncheon for New York’s homeless this week during which he sang, gave a speech, and declared himself the “world’s greatest philanthropist.” Unfortunately, many homeless who were told they would receive money in addition to food did not agree.
Chen, NBC reports, had originally intended to hand out $300 to each homeless person who attended the free luncheon he organized, but he changed the plans due to security concerns. He did hand some individuals $300, accompanied by a sticker with “100” prominently affixed to the front of each bill. He hosted a lavish lunch at Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse with a menu of “sesame-seed-encrusted tuna, beef filet and berries with crème fraiche.”
He provided all the entertainment at the event: magic tricks, a rendition of “We Are the World,” and an awards ceremony where he gave himself an award for being the “world’s greatest philanthropist.” Event workers were forced to wear uniforms resembling Chinese communist military garb with the words “serve the people” on them. Many homeless later consulted seemed to see the event as a service to Chen, not themselves, however.
A scathing report in the New York Post finds many of those promised the meal were extremely disappointed that the ads Chen posted in The New York Times announcing money for attendees was a lie. “Why lie to the people? … This is how the rich treat you. They tell you one thing and then they do another,” said one resident. “I’m very unhappy. … They used us like puppets so they could get their check,” said another, arguing that the homeless shelter, which would now receive the money, rather than the homeless individuals directly, used Chen to take his money. The Post also reports that a crowd of 100 homeless formed outside of the event and were not allowed inside, as they were not members of the shelter invited to the event. The raucous crowd of dozens booed Chen for denying them his charity. Others inside, when told they would not receive money, stormed out of the event.
The Post was also not a fan of the entertainment: “They listened to Chen’s self-congratulatory speech and a Chinese patriotic song before the publicity-loving philanthropist gave a tone-deaf performance of ‘We Are the World,’ the 1985 anthem against world hunger.”
Judge Chen’s singing ability for yourself here:
The high-profile event failure does not appear to have dissuaded Chen, neither in his quest to sing and do magic tricks publicly nor in his attempts to buy the sympathy of New York’s poor. In an unrelated stunt, Chen tried to hand out $100 bills to people in Manhattan at random. According to the New York Post (Did I mention the New York Post loves this guy?), Chen approached a random horrified man to hand him money, and, “like any New Yorker approached by a clueless smiling tourist, the man just put his head down and kept walking.”
Forbes reports that Chen is worth $740 million, which he made through a career in the recycling industry. Chen claims he grew up poor, with no connections to the Chinese government.