Sun Hung Kai Properties

Putting tycoons in their proper place

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am

Our 'hegemonic' tycoons must be nervously fingering their foreign passports. An ill wind has been blowing their way ever since Leung Chun-ying, running on a populist platform, was elected in March as the next chief executive. Since then, all three brothers of Sun Hung Kai Properties, along with former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, have been arrested by the ICAC on suspicion of bribery and other offences.

Now two other tycoons, Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-sing, are to face prosecution in Macau over an alleged offer of HK$20 million to disgraced former public works chief Ao Man-long in exchange for plots of land to build a luxury residential development. No one has been charged in the Sun Hung Kai case yet.

Conspiracy theories aside, all these investigations had been going on long before Leung's election. The systems of justice and enforcement in the two special administrative regions have been working independently of the governments, just as they should.

It's unlikely Hong Kong under Leung will turn anti-capitalist. We are just as friendly to investors, foreign and domestic, as ever. The myth about our hating the rich is just that - a myth. Most people are against only the unfair advantage and influence that a handful of tycoons enjoy over the economy, from property and energy supply to transport and infrastructure.

The tycoons were considered important to Hong Kong's stability after the handover. A deliberate policy of high land values and a lack of regulation under Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen have augmented their wealth and influence. But it's clear the tycoons are no longer indispensable to Beijing, which may even consider their influence counterproductive to the goal of a more harmonious and equitable society.

The legal cases against the tycoons, Leung's election and the popular revolt against the so-called 'property hegemony' have not been caused by any one factor, but are part of a sea change in our society that demands a fairer and more equitable free-market system. The tycoons may not like being cut down to size, but it's good for everyone else.