Among certain circles, Hong Kong is often described as "a spoilt child" while Beijing is called "grandpa", that is, the over-indulgent authority figure. So Li Ka-shing's use of the phrase to warn Hong Kong against going down a dangerous populist path is nothing new. The only difference is that he said it publicly, while many people who share the same or similar sentiments would never say it out loud.
There is no doubt that they have in mind the pan-democrats and their allies who thumb their noses at Beijing at every turn.
"Hong Kong is a spoilt child," Li reportedly said.
"Populism is rising in Hong Kong, and if this goes on, the city would look totally wrong in five to six years."
But by the same analogy, can we not call the pro-Beijing camp, such as the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, "daddy's girl"?
So perhaps a better question to ask is this: between the spoilt brat and the obedient child, are there any "adults" among us in our dealings with Beijing?
It strikes me that that's what Hong Kong desperately needs but tragically does not have.
To an extent, that's what the government under Leung Chun-ying tries to do - to bridge the gap between our city's popular demands and Beijing's interests. I don't wish to debate whether the chief executive has done a decent or terrible job. Those who argue one or the other are usually driven more by their own ideological beliefs and self-interest than objective evidence.
But what Leung calls "internal diplomacy" is worth thinking about. The trouble is, of course, because he cited or coined it, it has been dismissed out of hand.
Well, let me put it another way: have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight? That's the Joker's question to Batman. It's almost poetic. Many people seem to think Beijing is the devil. If that's true, would you not want to watch your every step and be extra alert?
This is why you need diplomacy - to deal with people you don't like or trust yet have to do business with; and to assert your legitimate interests against theirs. I don't think it's too much to ask the pan-dems to exercise a bit more diplomacy, nor for groups like the DAB to stand up for core Hong Kong issues worth fighting for.