A well-known Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist has pledged to donate his entire fortune to charity after his death, becoming the first in China to respond to the campaign launched in the US by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who will soon visit China to advocate philanthropy.
Chen Guangbiao, chairman of Jiangsu Huangpu Renewable Resources Utilization, said in an open letter to Gates and Buffett posted on his company website on Sunday that he would donate his entire fortune of more than five billion yuan (US$735 million) to charity when he dies in response to the duo's call for the wealthy to make charity pledges.
Since they launched the Giving Pledge Campaign this June, Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Buffett, an investment baron, have so far successfully convinced 40 US billionaires to donate at least half of their wealth, worth as much as $125 billion, to charity.
The moguls are scheduled to travel to China in late September for a philanthropic gathering with the Chinese super-rich. Fifty Chinese, including Chen, are reported to have received an invitation to a banquet during the pair's visit to Beijing on Sept 29.
In his open letter, 42-year-old Chen said he was "greatly moved" by the duo's commitment to charity and "pleased to accept the invitation". He also said it would be a "glory" to return his entire fortune to society after he dies and that it is a "shame" to die hoarding wealth.
He said his decision to part with his fortune was intended to serve as a "gift" to the magnates during their trip to China.
Chen's announcement has come amid the widespread belief that many of the Chinese billionaires who have been invited to the banquet are reluctant to accept the invitation out of concern over being lobbied to make charity promises.
Ye Lei, the Chinese director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, last week denied the rumor that the duo aims to persuade Chinese billionaires to part with their hard-earned fortunes.
Chen ranked on top of the 2010 China Charity List released by the China Association of Social Workers this April to honor individuals and companies who have made extraordinary contributions to charity.
Well acclaimed for his generosity and bravery, Chen organized the first non-governmental rescue team for Wenchuan county, Southwest China's Sichuan province, two hours after the 8-magnitude earthquake in 2008. He also arranged rescue teams for Yushu after a quake struck there in April.
Over the past 10 years, the philanthropist said he had donated 1.34 billion yuan to charitable causes, benefiting more than 700,000 people.
Donations from China's wealthiest have been on the rise. The 2010 Hurun Philanthropy List, also released in April, showed that the country's top 100 philanthropists gave away an average of 229 million yuan each over the past five years, or 6 percent of their wealth, a 4 percent increase over last year.