A Chinese millionaire's move to help homeless New Yorkers by treating them to a posh lunch was dismissed as a publicity stunt by some attendees and social analysts.
Recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao, who is known for his grand, eccentric gestures, took out advertisements in The New York Times last week promising a fancy meal at The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park and $300 cash for each of 1,000 homeless people in the city.
But the guest list for the charity banquet, which was held on Wednesday, shrank to 250 as police said the feast on the lawn had to be cancelled because of safety concerns.
Attendees were bused in and treated to a three-course, sit-down meal of sesame-seed-encrusted tuna, beef filet and berries with creme fraiche. Chen, 46, regaled his guests with his rendition of We Are The World.
About three dozen volunteer waiters, wearing uniforms similar to those once worn by soldiers in the People's Liberation Army and bearing the words "Serve the People", served the meals.
Chen waved some $100 bills in front of his guests. Piles of cash also filled wire baskets at the restaurant.
Many guests said they enjoyed the meal, adding that they were touched by Chen's gesture of traveling all the way from China to help them, AFP reported.
But some of them started to complain after realizing that there were no cash gifts for them from the Chinese tycoon, the report said.
Quin Shabazz, 34, was quoted as saying he felt that the homeless had been exploited, and he branded the lunch - which was covered by a mob of TV cameras and reporters - "a big publicity stunt".
Michelle Tolson, public relations director at the New York City Rescue Mission, which helped Chen organise the event, said that no cash would be handed out to individuals and that it had taken a month and a half of negotiations to persuade Chen to donate $90,000 to the organisation instead, the report said.
Officials from the shelter urged Chen not to hand out cash because many of the guests were being treated for addictions, and they believed the money would be better used for their programs. The shelter provides homeless people with a hot meal, a clean shower, a safe bed, clothing and assistance in addressing their problems.
Deng Guosheng, who specializes in philanthropic studies as director of Tsinghua University's NGO Research Center, said on Thursday that he believes Chen's act contradicts the US philanthropic culture and that the US public would not approve.
"The American society emphasizes helping others to help themselves rather than just giving cash, because the latter will not help solve social problems," he said.