China Uncensored: Chinese Millionaire Deceives Hundreds of New York’s Homeless

By Chris Chappell
Chris Chappell
Chris Chappell
July 5, 2014 Updated: July 6, 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of my readers out there. You give me so much, and I haven’t been giving back enough lately. What would you say if I decided to give $300 to each and every one of you who read my articles? 

Why am I doing this, you ask? Is it a cheap publicity stunt aimed at boosting my popularity and stroking my ego? I’m devastated that you would think that of me. I’ve in fact been inspired by “eccentric” Chinese millionaire Chen Guangbiao, he of the infamous offer to buy the New York Times.

On June 16, Chen put ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal announcing that he was going to host a free lunch for 1,000 “poor and destitute” Americans and give each of them $300. The ads said that Chen was “quietly preparing” to launch a U.S.-China charity fund. If this is his way of “quietly” doing something, I’m not sure I want to know what loudly looks like.

Oh. Right.

Back in January, I talked about how Chen’s bid to buy the New York Times was a front for his propaganda stunt to bring back the debunked self-immolation in Tiananmen Square and slander Falun Gong. But this time, it seems like he’s really trying to do something good for the homeless in New York. A free filet mignon lunch at the Central Park boathouse, some money … sure it’s a little self-promotional, but how could he turn this into a propaganda stunt?!?

Cut to June 25 and the free lunch. Volunteers are dressed in Mao-era Red Army uniforms. Chen is leading the 250 or so people who made it into the lunch (down from 1,000 due to the fact that you can’t fit that many people into the venue) in a rousing rendition of a 1950s communist propaganda song called “Model Citizen Lei Feng” before they began to eat. Lei Feng was the “model revolutionary” of the Communist Party back in the 1950s and ’60s. After all, nothing says benevolent philanthropy like revolutionary struggle!

There were signs from the beginning that this event was not going to go well. Chen had worked out a deal with the New York City Rescue Mission to bring residents from its shelters to the lunch. But the charity had told Chen it would not be a good idea to give the attendees $300 because some of them had drug or alcohol problems. Instead, Chen agreed that $90,000 would be donated directly to the mission.

So the newspaper ads promising $300 to each person? Just a miscommunication, said the charity.

And then Chen got up, next to cartloads of money, and miscommunicated to everyone at the event that they would indeed be getting $300 each! Let’s just say the Rescue Mission people were not thrilled. They worked out another deal with Chen allowing him to give $300 to some of the attendees on stage, which they then would have to give back. 

When word finally spread that they wouldn’t be getting any money, the lunch guests were just a little disappointed. People began yelling. They said that it was a fraud, a propaganda trick for the rich. People said they felt used, like they were puppets or props.

Several guests tried to storm the stage. To be fair, that might have been a reaction to Chen’s rendition of “We Are the World.” After all, it wouldn’t be a Chen Guangbiao event without terrible karaoke. In the end, Chen tried to appease the crowd by promising to deliver the money at the Rescue Mission after the event. And …

… he never showed. Instead, the mission had to deal with the angry residents. So the event was not a raging success. And Chen did manage to again shove both his self-promotion and communist propaganda into an act of charity. But at least he didn’t further exploit two female burn victims by parading them in front of the media like a freak show and having them tell more lies about Falun Gong! 

Except he did. Why were these women at the event? Chen’s assistant told a reporter that she had no idea he was going to bring them. Attendees and reporters were also extremely confused. In fact, most news stories written about the event didn’t even mention the women, possibly because it was so completely bizarre that reporters didn’t know how to explain it. 

So in Chen’s ad in the New York Times, he said that he wanted to hold this lunch to dispel negative perceptions of China’s rich as “crazy.” Well. Then. I don’t think there’s anything more I can really say about that.

You know, I feel so awful about this whole thing. I don’t think I can give you guys that $300 anymore. Let’s just all agree to treat each other a little bit better, ok? After all, we are the world. We are the children.

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Chris Chappell
Chris Chappell