Children of desire for the wealthy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 November, 2010, 12:00am

Last month, Peter Lee Ka-kit, eldest son of Hong Kong tycoon Lee Shau-kee or 'Uncle Four', made headlines, but this time not on the business pages. The 47-year-old vice-chairman of Henderson Development became a father to three sons.

What seemed to be an ordinary piece of gossip among the rich and powerful soon turned into a controversial issue when it emerged that Lee, who is still single, had used the services of a surrogacy agency overseas, which is illegal in Hong Kong.

According to several Chinese-language newspapers, the triplets were born in the United States in July and named Chi-shun, Chi-yan and Chi-yung. The overjoyed grandfather and chairman of Henderson Land Development, Lee Shau-kee, was said to be giving away HK$33 million to his staff and charity in celebration.

The chairman has no grandsons but two granddaughters from his younger son, Martin Lee Ka-shing, and daughter-in-law, actress Cathy Tsui Chi-kei.

The news stirred up heated discussion on the rights and wrongs of Lee's actions. Some questioned whether Lee acted against the law by paying for surrogacy.

According to Hong Kong's Human Reproductive Technology Ordinance, which came into effect in August 2007, commercial surrogacy is prohibited, meaning no person can make or receive any payment for surrogacy arrangements. The regulation applies to dealings both inside and outside Hong Kong.

Legislative Council member Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who was involved in the early consultation on the ordinance, said even if Lee's act were illegal, it would be difficult to gather evidence from an overseas agency in a country which considers such cases legal.

Some religious groups openly disapproved of Lee's act, saying it was immoral.

Vicar-general Father Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of the Catholic diocese told the South China Morning Post that Lee had not respected human values. He said the use of surrogate mothers was to make parents happy and wrote off the human dignity of the children.

Choi Chi-sum, general secretary of Christian concern group The Society for Truth and Light, also said Lee's act was immoral and would be harmful to the children.

Billy Wong Wai-yuk, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights, said Lee had totally ignored the children as individuals.

'This is a clear case where someone has treated children as his property, not as individuals. I think this is a selfish act as Lee has decided to have the children born into a single family from the beginning,' Wong said.

From her experience in promoting children's rights, Wong believes Chinese parents tend to be less aware of their children's rights compared to Western parents.

'We believe that children should have the right to the care of both parents and to be born out of love, not to fulfil someone's desire. Even if Lee is a rich man who will probably have many carers for the children, no one can replace a mother's role. This maternal role model lays down the foundation of a child's emotional characteristics.

'Another concern is that the privacy of the children has been hugely infringed upon right from birth. They will grow up in the news with all kinds of comments and questions throughout their lives. Children are very sensitive to others' comments. The three boys will not have an easy life. Has Lee considered all these issues the children might face in the future?

'I think his story has a negative impact on our society.'