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Li Ka-Shing

Often referred to as “Superman” in Hong Kong because of his business prowess, Li Ka-shing is the richest businessman in Asia, and chairs conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong Holdings, a property group. Li turned Cheung Kong Industries into a top property group, and Cheung Kong expanded to acquire Hutchison Whampoa in 1979 and Hongkong Electric in 1985. Li is a noted philanthropist and heads a charitable foundation that is a shareholder in Facebook.

CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong can be both democratic and economically competitive

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 3:54pm

Having stayed quiet for a while, Asia's richest man stole the limelight last week by warning Hong Kong about Shanghai's new free-trade zone. Li Ka-shing said Hong Kong people may be underestimating the potential challenge posed by the new trade zone, which could well surpass our city unless we step up our game and enhance our competitiveness.

This seems to be the new united-front message, reinforced a day later by Yu Zhengsheng , the chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee. The head of the nation's top consultative body told a group of prominent local representatives that the city must stayed united to increase our competitiveness. There appears to be a consensus in the local business community and in the nation's corridors of power that Hong Kong desperately needs greater economic competitiveness and less political combativeness.

In this context, Li, the supremo of Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong (Holdings), is preaching to the choir. He believes Shanghai's role in economic reform by loosening controls on capital flows and expanding foreign investment will elevate the competitiveness of the mainland economy. Coupled with efforts to make the yuan fully convertible, Hong Kong may be left behind.

At the same time, Li spoke out against Occupy Central, the political protest movement launched by University of Hong Kong legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting. He warns such protests will undermine the city's international image, with incalculable risks. This is an assessment shared by many local business leaders and government officials, including Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who has also denounced the Occupy plan.

But this way of looking at social development in Hong Kong is creating a false dichotomy. Enhancing economic competitiveness and advocating democratic reform are not two incompatible goals. Indeed, many have argued that the one needs the other. Nevertheless, Li's and Yu's warnings are timely. Some of the more physically aggressive tactics used by radical activists are to be deplored. Throwing objects at the chief executive and other senior officials, and fighting with police officers in street protests are not acceptable.

But the twin achievements of universal suffrage and economic competitiveness will likely make our city even more successful in future.


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hard times !
of course our Hong Kong can be both democratic and economically competitive while competing with Shanghai which is going to have a so-called free trade zone. Don't forget our advantages over Shangahi remain unchanged: 'rule of law' instead of 'ruled by law' as practised on Mainland China; freedoms of media (allows free flows of information), expression and speech; respect towards human rights and a more democratic political system results in far fewer corruption cases and a much cleaner and effective governance as well. Have Shanghai got an ICAC as ours ? Of course not ! How about the civilized manners practised by most of the people living in both places and the contact with outside worlds plus knowledge of foreign countries /places ? We never lag behind Shanghai !
All politicians must provide people whom they want to lead with an agenda what life would be. A leap of faith ask of people is waste of opportunity. Any political system at the end is all about grass root issues of which politics are only the sum not the means to grass root issues. Hong Kong has plenty of grass root issues waiting to be articulated to win any political persuasion you like me to follow. The silence on issues in Hong Kong by politicians is really asking the people to leap across the water without showing a place to land. I believe it is pragmatism that without coercion will win our heart and mind.
The Occupy Central crowd has damaged their own credibility in the city by acting unreasonably without any clear objectives to complement the city's growth and prosperity. Not only have they inspired reproaches from the business communities, they have also damaged the city's image and its relationship with Beijing, Hong Kong's no.1 trading partner accounting for over 50% of total trade. Even if the Occupy Central crowd and the editors at SCMP didn't pay attention in high school math class, the businesses in Hong Kong certainly did.
Please do everyone a favor, get yourself educated:
I agree with the editor. The CCP types are presenting a false dilemma. Economic competitiveness and political reform are not, and need not be, mutually exclusive.
It is also a bit disingenuous for Li to be parroting the CCP message. He and his family can take off to Canada at a moment's notice, so he really has no skin in the game insofar as democratic change is concerned.


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