Beijing stayed out of the fight for fear of setting precedent
Gary Cheung, Chow Chung-yan
Beijing's role in the Ho family fight over Stanley Ho Hung-sun's vast fortune has been passive because it is wary of setting a bad precedent by getting involved in such family feuds, according to mainland officials familiar with Macau affairs.
The central government was also confident that any drama over the casino mogul's business empire would stay within Ho's family and not cause instability in Macau.
A mainland official who requested anonymity said Beijing had kept a watchful eye on the family dispute but did not want to show favour to any party.
'It's not appropriate for the central government to intervene in the feud, as it is purely Ho family business,' the official said.
'If we took sides in the dispute and helped broker a deal for the Ho family, we would only fall into trouble if any of the parties concerned were unhappy with the settlement in future. It's fine for the Ho family to keep us informed, but pointless for us to go further.'
However, some observers believe that given the huge political clout and economic power of Ho's gaming empire, it is unlikely that Beijing and the Macau government would have sat idly by while the Ho family fought over Stanley Ho's fortune, estimated by Forbes this year at US$3.1 billion.
Before and since his four-decade Macau gambling monopoly was broken in 2001, Ho has had a finger in almost every business pie in the special administrative region and his commercial interests dominate its economy.
Ho's Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) is still the city's biggest commercial employer, with a workforce of more than 10,000 people. It accounts for about 5 per cent of Macau's workforce.
It was reported that former Macau chief executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah and Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie attended a meeting of Ho family members in Hong Kong on Monday.
But another mainland official familiar with Hong Kong and Macau affairs said some Hong Kong media reports suggesting that Beijing was concerned about the Ho family struggle and had stepped in to mediate were not true.
'The matter has never gone beyond the door of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Central Government's liaison office in Macau,' the official said. 'And even there, they were just doing some passive work such as monitoring the situation and passing on messages when they were approached for help.'
The official said Beijing had been confident throughout the drama that things would not get out of control.
'Actually a few years back, we initiated a study to look at how the passing of important people will affect stability in Macau,' the official said. 'We've examined the possible scenarios after Stanley Ho and Edmond Ho.
'The central government is confident things will stay under control.'