China’s rich drag feet on Gates-Buffett charity meet

10-Sep-2010 Intellasia | AFP | 7:01 AM Print This Post

Only two of China’s super-rich have accepted an invitation to meet with US philanthropists Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, with others fearing they will be pressured to give to charity, a report said.

Gates and Buffett, the two richest Americans, have called on their wealthy compatriots to give at least half of their assets to charity and plan to hold a September 29 banquet in Beijing for China’s super-rich.

China has the second-most billionaires after the United States, but only two businesspeople have said they will attend the banquet hosted by software magnate Gates and investment baron Buffett, Xinhua news agency reported late Tuesday.

It also quoted Zhang Jing, spokeswoman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s China office, as saying the group was “having difficulties confirming the attendance” of the roughly 50 wealthy invitees.

The Gates foundation’s China office has had to “repeatedly convince” those invited that the meeting would have no donation strings attached and that participants’ identities would be kept confidential, Zhang reportedly said.

AFP was unable to reach Zhang immediately for comment.

Gates and Buffett launched their “The Giving Pledge” project in June, aimed at convincing billionaires across the United States to give up most of their money — 50 percent or more — to a good cause.

Just six weeks later, 40 wealthy individuals and their families — including CNN founder Ted Turner and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — had pledged to hand over more than half of their fortunes.

Asked to confirm whether only two people had so far confirmed their attendance at the Beijing event, Gates foundation staff member Angel Deng told AFP: “It’s totally untrue.”

She declined further comment.

Ye Lei, director of the foundation’s China office, was this week quoted as saying Chinese tycoons would not be pressured by Gates and Buffett to cough up.

“They’re coming here to see whether in the future there might be some opportunities for cooperation or the establishment of a charitable coalition,” Ye told the China Daily.

Last month, Buffett said he and Gates were coming to share their experience, adding: “And if they wish to take what we think is a good idea and run with it, we’ll be cheering.”

However, only one of those invited — entrepreneur and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao — has so far publicly answered the call to donate.

Chen, 42, who heads a resource recycling company in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, has said he will leave his entire fortune of more than five billion yuan (735 million dollars) to charity after his death.

China’s stunning economic development has created a growing class of super-rich. It has 64 dollar billionaires, second only to the United States’ 403, according to Forbes magazine.

Xinhua quoted a China Charity Foundation official as saying the traditional Chinese practice of keeping all one’s wealth in the family by bequeathing it to the next generation remains strong, and that philanthropy in the country was still in its infancy.

Besides the China trip, Buffett has said the pair also planned to visit India in March 2011.

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Category: China

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