Eccentric billionaire philanthropist Chen Guangbiao managed to steal the headlines again after he arrived at earthquake-stricken Lushan county on Saturday to deliver cash donations - into the hands of quake victims.
Chen came to the Sichuan province county just hours after the earthquake struck, with “300,000 yuan (HK$377,000) cash stored in a bag”, mainland media reported earlier this week.
Each villager reportedly received 200 yuan from the Jiangsu entrepreneur, who also bought along “50 torches, 1,000 quilts, a metric tonne of bread and 20 tonnes of bottled water” for disaster relief, China Daily reported.
Photos circulating on the internet showed Chen dressed in military fatigues passing out 100 yuan bills to smiling villagers. Another one showed him carrying what appeared to be an injured person on his back.
“This money is for temporary expenses such as fuel and machinery. [We] will act accordingly if the time comes when more cash needs to be distributed in disaster areas. The first goal is to save people,” the Southern Metropolis Daily quoted Chen as saying.
Public reaction was mixed, but mostly positive. On Sina Weibo, Chen supporters rallied around “Brother Chen” and said he showed a different side to China’s wealthy class.
“If only more rich men in China were like Chen Guangbiao, I wonder how social conditions would change,” one user on weibo said.
Netizens joked that Chen was taking over the job of the scandal-plagued Red Cross Society of China. The large state-run charity organisation is seen among donors as less transparent compared with private charities and non-governmental organisations.
Chen has long been known for his controversial acts of philanthropy. He has often been seen doling out red pockets filled with money to people.
The 43-year-old, who made his fortune in the recycling business, found himself in the spotlight earlier this year, first for selling cans of “fresh air” in heavily polluted Beijing and then for suggesting that the one-child policy should apply more to less-educated people.
Chen spent a month and half in Wenchuan after the 8.0 magnitude earthquake in 2008, where he donated more than 100 million yuan for post-quake construction.
He also made a high profile trip to Japan after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake-tsunami and personally donated rescue supplies as well as US$160,000 in cash to victims.
According to the China Foundation Center, 438 million yuan in donations were collected in the first three days after the quake struck on Saturday.