Last August, Chinese millionaire and self-styled philanthropist Chen Guangbiao posted a video of himself taking a charitable stunt to extreme levels, drawing skepticism about the stunt’s authenticity.
Now, he admits it was faked.
The Ice Bucket Challenge of summer 2014, intended to raise money for people afflicted with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), attracted widespread popularity worldwide. Nominated by friends, participants typically recorded themselves pouring cold water or ice over their heads and posting the results online.
Chen Guangbiao, a recycling entrepreneur, got in on the freezing action. In late August, he claimed to have sat immersed in a bin of freezing water and ice for half an hour, as seen in his video, which can be viewed on Youtube. Chen vowed to donate a million yuan ($161,000) to ALS patients if anyone could surpass his achievement.
The video, in which a red-faced Chen can be seen in a plastic blue garbage bin gripping the edges while staff pour water and ice over his portly body, immediately raised doubt from observers. While real ice is lighter than water, many noted that much of the ice poured into Chen’s bin sank. A medical expert, Wen Deyuan, questioned Chen’s stunt as sitting in freezing water for half an hour is physically dangerous.
“Based on my clinical experience,” Wen stated in Chinese media, “staying submerged in ice water for even five minutes can lead to infertility or death.” Wen urged the public not to imitate the stunt.
In response to the criticism at the time, Chen said that he had built up an extraordinary resistance to cold due to Kung Fu training he had received from masters at the famed Shaolin temple.
This March, however, Chen confessed to Chinese media that the water he was soaked in was actually warm, comparable to bath water, and that he could’ve stayed in there for over an hour.
Chen, who calmly passed off his forgery as “performance art with some exaggeration,” said in an interview with state-run Sanxiang City News that half the water in the bin was over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but the ice poured over his head and floating in the water was real. Even with the added ice, Chen said the water was warm, around 75 degrees.
Though viewers, seeing his reddened legs, assumed it was because of the cold, Chen stated that they were “burnt red.”
“It was unbearably hot,” Chen claimed.
The “philanthropist” Chen Guangbiao has frequently faced criticism over his charitable acts and campaigns. Another incident last year went awry when Chen held a lunch and cash giveaway event in New York City’s Central Park. He invited three hundred of the city’s homeless for free lunch and $300 each in cash, but only 200 guests were actually allowed in and in the end none of them received any money.
In the end, Chen posed for photos with three guests each holding $100, after which the money was returned. Even more intriguingly, Chen brought a group of performers clad in communist military uniforms to act out skits praising communism and the Chinese regime to those in attendance.
Last January, Chen made international headlines when he stated his intention to purchase the New York Times and bring it in line with Chinese state narratives. No deal has been made.