Tycoon's $2.4 million gift includes free chopper rides for villagers

Tycoon Zheng Daqing hands over bundles of cash to the residents of the Sichuan village in which he was born.
PHOTO: Youtube

A Chinese multimillionaire truly embraced the spirit of giving over the Lunar New Year holiday, lavishing 12 million yuan (S$2.4 million) in cash, gifts and helicopter rides on the residents of the small village he once called home.

Zheng Daqing, the 60-year-old chairman of conglomerate Xinjiang Tiandi Group, flew into Dingziqiao in southwest China's Sichuan province on Wednesday and spent several days meeting villagers and showering those aged 50 or more with gifts, Chengdu Economic Daily reported on Monday.

Mo Lian, the mayor of Dingziqiao town, which administers its namesake village, was quoted as saying Zheng gave away about 9 million yuan in cash and 3 million yuan worth of electrical appliances, including air conditioners, fridges and television sets.

He also used the fact that he had arrived aboard a helicopter to give some of the villagers a free flight.

"Many of our village elders have never been on or seen a plane before," he was quoted as saying. "Planes are very common, so it would be a pity if they never got to fly in one."

The free flights were on offer only to those aged 60 and above, and they each had to undergo a health check before being allowed to take to the skies, the report said.

As well as the appliances and helicopter flights, Zheng handed out scores of cash gifts - ranging in value from 2,000 to 60,000 yuan - to the grateful residents. The bundles of notes were too thick to fit in traditional red envelopes, so each was tied with a red ribbon.

"He got rich, but he hasn't forgotten his fellow villagers," resident Liu Ying was quoted as saying. "People like this are very rare nowadays."

Zheng was born into a poor family in Dingziqiao in 1959. After leaving school he spent some time in the army before returning home to work as a farmer.

In 1985 he set off in search of his fortune, heading to Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in China's far west.

Despite arriving in the city with nothing more than an old quilt and a few coins in his pocket, Zheng spent the next decade pursuing his dream, and by 1995 set up the company he now chairs - a conglomerate with 16 subsidiaries in the property, energy and other sectors.

In 2005, Zheng ranked 146th on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Chinese, with an estimated fortune of US$154 million. By 2008 he had slipped to 339th and since then has not troubled the chart's compilers, though from his recent act of generosity it would appear he still retains plenty of wealth.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post