A Chinese millionaire who promised to give $300 cash to each of his 250 guests at the Tour of Love and Gratitude Luncheon in New York’s Central Park on Wednesday has changed his mind.
Chen Guangbiao, a 46-year-old recycling magnate, sponsored the event inviting hundreds of NYC homeless men and women to attend a flamboyant luncheon at the Loeb Boathouse.
He treated guests to a gourmet meal and gave a speech promising each of them $300 in cash. At some point, Chen took the stage and performed a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “We Are the World.”
Chen bought a full-page advertisement for the event in the New York Times, and some individuals camped out in Central Park awaiting luncheon.
The ad read: “Leading Chinese philanthropist teams up with famous American charities to host charity luncheon for 1,000 poor and destitute Americans. Each will receive 300 dollars.”
Chen said he was inspired to help the poor after he saw New Yorkers sifting through garbage cans on the street.
“I want the wealthy people of the world to see,” Chen said through an interpreter. “From this event, I hope the whole world will be filled with love.”
Chen organized the event with the help of New York City Rescue Mission. Members of the mission said they would participate as long as Chen promised not to hand out cash. The group’s executive director, Craig Mayes, said they worried attendees would use the money for drugs and alcohol.
Instead, Chen signed a contract and agreed to donate $90,000 to the New York City Rescue Mission – something he failed to tell his guests. Instead he took the stage and said, “I will give $300 for every participant today.”
Attendees applauded until the mission’s director of public relations, Michelle Tolson, said: “No he won’t. The police will shut him down.”
The mission let Chen give out money to several chosen homeless clients as a symbolic gesture. The rest went into the organization’s coffers.
Standing beside a trolley stacked with $100 bills, homeless delegates posed for pictures with Chen as the rest of his guests became disgruntled.
“Are you serious?” Tom Cargill, 52, told The Times. “I feel so disappointed right now I’m going to throw up.”
“Very deceptive,” said Dennis Durant, 58.
“Stop lying!” someone yelled at Chen.
“We’re human beings!” shouted another.
Security guards surrounded Chen to protect him from angry guests and reporters. Nevertheless, he described the event as “extremely successful.”
“In fact,” he told The Times, “next year I’m going to continue my philanthropy in Africa.”