Billionaire vows to give fortune to good causes

08:22, September 27, 2010      

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It was 1978 when Chen Guangbiao, then 10 years old and now chief executive officer of Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources, made his first charitable donation: 1.8 yuan to help a youngster next door to buy textbooks.

On Sept 1, when Chen received a charity dinner meeting invitation from legendary stock-market investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, he decided to donate again. This time he pledged his entire 5 billion yuan fortune.

Buffett and Gates have been trying to persuade American billionaires to give at least half of their fortunes to charity. On Sept 29 they will come to China to spread the idea of giving to their Chinese peers.

However, other than Chen's announcement, there has been only one billionaire who has publicly confirmed his attendance at a dinner to mark the event.

Earlier this month, Feng Jun said he will sign up to the Gates/Buffett giving pledge.

Feng, president of Aigo Information Digital Technology Company, announced that he intended to donate 100 percent of his fortune to Chinese charitable organizations, the Yangtze Evening Post reported on Sept 10.

Some Chinese billionaires have turned down an invitation to the dinner, fearing they will have to donate money if they attend, China Philanthropy Times reported.

The Beijing office of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has declined to divulge the exact number and names of those who have said they will not attend.

In response to those who question whether the two richest men in the United States are coming to China to put pressure on people to give, Gates and Buffett replied "Not at all".

In a letter to the Xinhua News Agency, the pair wrote that their trip was fundamentally about learning and listening.

Chen expressed his concern about some Chinese billionaires' reluctance to attend. "Rich people in China are doing far from enough to make an impact on charity," he told China Daily in his Beijing apartment on Sept 8. He said that China needed to pass a law to regulate inheritance issues. "The nation has to ensure that rich people are donating a certain amount of money to charity and not leaving all their fortune to their offspring," he said.

Chen donated more than 300 million yuan to charity in 2009. His company made 410 million yuan in net profits that year, the 42-year-old billionaire said. Chen has been described as the number one philanthropist in China.

"I might be rich but I am not a miser," Chen wrote in an open letter to Buffett and Gates, adding that his entire fortune would be donated to charity at his death.

Although Gates and Buffett did not reveal who was on their invitation list in their letter, Wang Chuanfu, the wealthiest man in China, would undoubtedly be attending the meeting, China Philanthropy Times reported in August.

Wang is the president of BYD Co Ltd, which was listed on Hong Kong's stock market in 2002. Wang's fortune was believed to surpass 35 billion yuan in 2009. In September 2008, Warren Buffett invested HK$1.8 billion ($230 million) to buy up about 10 percent of the company's shares. It was reported that during their visit to China, Buffett and Gates will spend a day at BYD's plant in Shenzhen. BYD is a high-tech enterprise specializing in automobiles and new energy.

Gates and Buffett initiated their joint philanthropic campaign called The Giving Pledge in June 2010. It involves inviting the wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving the majority of their fortune to philanthropy.

The two have already persuaded 40 US families or individuals, most of whom are billionaires, to sign away at least 50 percent of their wealth.

ABC television reported that at least $125 billion has been pledged so far. Film director George Lucas, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hotel tycoon Barron Hilton are among those who have signed up.

Source: China Daily


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