Billionaire Philanthropist Awards Millions to Paralympics

Johnnie Peacock

Jonnie Peacock, British Paralympian champion sprinter (c) IPC

Octogenarian Chinese billionaire Lui Che Woo has announced the three recipients of this year’s US$7.8 million prize for civilisation, including the International Paralympic Committee.

This week, Chinese billionaire Lui Che Woo announced a triumvirate of winners of his annual prize for civilisation, with each of the three awardees given HK$20 million (US$2.6 million) to support work in climate change, poverty, and harmony among diverse groups.

This year, the International Paralympic Committee was awarded the positive energy prize for promoting harmony among diverse groups and radiating positive energy around the globe, according to a note. “[The IPC] proactively encourages para athletes in celebration and competitive participation in sports, offering hope to people with an impairment, and changing long-held biases towards them,” it said.

Sir Philip Craven, president of the IPC said he was “ecstatic to be recognised by such a pre-eminent award”.

"The award-giver believes that our prime driving force is our paralympic spirit, but the other name for the paralympic spirit is ‘positive energy’. So it’s great that these two sets of thinkers and actors can come together. It’s a great honour,” he added.

The prize for climate change went to Chinese government official Xie Zhenhua for his role in championing international environmental negotiations. His efforts culminated in the successful conclusion of the Paris Agreement in 2015, and his stance on promoting the prevention of climate change within China has been seen by some as a model for other developing economies. “Xie has made remarkable contributions to the prevention of climate change,” said the foundation.

Last year, Xie openly criticised US president Donald Trump for back-peddling on the climate change pact, and he was instrumental in establishing China’s national carbon trading scheme, which was launched this year and is now the biggest market globally.

The prize for the alleviation of poverty went to the Seattle-based NGO Landesa, for its promotion of the idea of ‘land to the tiller’ and its success in securing land rights for over 120 million of the world’s poorest families in more than 50 countries since 1967. “Landesa has made outstanding contributions to the alleviation of poverty by embracing the concept of ‘helping people to help themselves’,” said the foundation. Landesa president Chris Jochnick said it was “unexpected and tremendously exciting” to learn about the award: “[We now have] the resources, connections and legitimacy to expand our network... and the flexibility and opportunity to really do the work we think is important to raising living standards for the worlds poorest.”

Property and casino owner Lui told Billionaire in an interview last year: “When I came up with this prize I speculated on how we can emphasise more new terms such as ‘positive energy’, and ways how people can learn to adjust their attitude or make others feel comfortable.” (Watch the full interview here.)

Now with a fortune of US$15.2 billion, after starting out his career selling peanuts as a teenager from a street stall in Hong Kong, Lui said: “We would like to offer our heartiest congratulations to the three laureates, who are the best in their respective fields. We would like to thank the three laureates for their contributions to the world, and sincerely hope that they will continue their work and serve as influential role models for world civilisation, benefitting more people in the future.”

Next year’s three prize categories are: development of renewable energy; reduction of the impacts of natural disasters; and the elimination of illiteracy.

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