Billionaire smashes his car 'to set an example'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am


It was meant to inspire interest in an environmental campaign, but eccentric tycoon Chen Guangbiao's destruction of his beloved Mercedes last week triggered an online backlash from the mainland's growing pool of motorists.

Chen, the billionaire-philanthropist head of Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources, took the controls of a heavy duty excavator-jackhammer on Friday and, after a moment's hesitation, took aim at his black 2004 Mercedes S600 saloon.

He brought the drill down in front of cameras, boring, slamming and crushing from bonnet to boot a vehicle that costs more than two million yuan (HK$2.44 million) to replace.

He posted footage of the destruction online as part of an event at his firm for National No-Driving Day.

By giving up the car that had served him well since the early heady days of his business empire, Chen hoped to encourage others to give up their vehicles for a better environment, according to the Modern Express newspaper in Nanjing .

'I hope my action will set an example for people in China, especially entrepreneurs like me,' Chen said in the video. 'If you can afford not to buy a luxury car with a big engine, don't buy it. If you have already bought it, don't use it.'

Chen became a national celebrity after donating 180 million yuan to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake relief efforts. He also assembled and led a rescue team armed with bulldozers and excavators to the front line of the destruction.

But he later drew criticism for his rogue philanthropy, typified by the distribution of cash to people on streets from poor villages in Guizhou to quake-hit zones in Taiwan. There are also questions about him donating more money than he officially earned from his company's recycling business.

The car demolition last week was cause for even more criticism. Some commenters on took Chen to task for his lack of consideration for the middle classes, many of whom live in suburban areas and rely on cars for their daily commute because they cannot afford to live downtown. Some bemoaned the loss of the car, saying the action was itself an example of environmental waste.

But mostly people just thought he was showy.

'Everybody wants to put on a show these days. Most don't have a chance to get on stage, but he does,' one commenter said. 'This world is unfair. Some people smash their cars. Some can't afford one.'