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  • Aug 30, 2014
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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.

NewsHong Kong
POLITICS

Li Ka-shing warns of threat to Hong Kong's core values

Asia's richest man says core strengths must be defended and reveals his anger at accusations that he was preparing to pull out of the city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 1:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 6:44pm
 

Poll

  • Yes: 24%
  • No: 76%
28 Nov 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 267

Li Ka-shing has dismissed rumours he is cashing out of Hong Kong, while also offering his thoughts - and a warning - on the city's political future.

Asia's richest man said suggestions he was pulling out of the city were a "big joke".

But while defending the city's core values, he said: "Hong Kong cannot go down the path of rule of men. Hong Kong has many core values, such as an open and free market and the rule of law, which are not come by easily.

"If there is any mishandling in governance, these [values] would all be gone.

"My relationship with the Hong Kong government and other countries is built on this understanding. It should not be changed when there is reshuffle of individual leaders or officials."

Li, 85, made his comments in an interview with Guangzhou-based Nanfang Media Group that lasted for 21/2 hours.

Li rarely gives media interviews - he hasn't given any one-to-one interviews with the Hong Kong media since the late 1990s.

The tycoon backed Leung Chun-ying's rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen, in last year's election for chief executive and there are widespread rumours he is not on good terms with the current administration.

But asked whether he should "mend fences" with Leung, Li said: "We have no grudge against each other in the first place. Why is there a need to mend fences?"

Speaking in his office in the Cheung Kong Center in Central, he said people read too much into his business dealings.

"In today's globalised economy, this kind of accusation is out of place and unhealthy for business as well as the government," he said.

Some media speculated Li was moving assets abroad after selling three commercial properties - in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing - for a total of 12.8 billion yuan (HK$16.2 billion).

Hutchison Whampoa was also looking to sell the ParknShop chain, but withdrew the plan after the offers fell short of expectations. Li said such transactions were simply good business.

"[People] accuse me wrongly, and I'm not happy. Today I'm going to hit back. I will present figures and facts and they can't argue with that."

He said: "The gross income of Cheung Kong and Hutchison was about HK$430 billion last year. The capital invested in the two overseas infrastructural projects this year was only HK$8 billion, accounting for less than 2 per cent.

"And this year we invested HK$4 billion in Hong Kong's container port. How can Cheung Kong and Hutchison be said to be pulling out capital? It's Arabian Nights. It's such a big joke."

He added: "Sell high and buy low is normal business behaviour … I have done business internationally for more than 30 years.

"This is the first time I'm hearing [such accusations] … Now it [the criticism] has been extended to the mainland as well.

"We have investments in 52 countries in various businesses, including property. We have sold assets in different countries, in some cases making a profit of more than HK$100 billion.

"People there didn't say that I am pulling out."

Li seemed to be particularly upset by the notion of so-called "property hegemony" - a phrase coined to describe how property tycoons made their fortune through a network which is carefully crafted to enable them to control the city.

The tycoon also dismissed this suggestion as a joke and said his companies were making "much more" in other countries than in Hong Kong.

He claimed there was an "unhealthy trend [of making unfair criticism]" in Hong Kong, which often put officials and public figures in a difficult position.

"It would result in lose-lose situation for both the government and the community. I breathe a sigh of relief that I didn't join the government because officials have to balance the interests of various stakeholders."

Yet he also said, tongue-in-cheek: "If I could choose [a career] again, I'd probably go into politics." Li said his main loyalty was to his shareholders.

"I'm not a clever person … I'm not omnipotent. I can't predict changes in politics nor can I influence politics. What I can do is use my intelligence to make decisions which are favourable for our shareholders."

When asked how to alleviate the gap between the rich and the poor, he said a "free lunch" approach was not the solution.

"The only solution lies in providing a good education for our young generation. It would be wrong if the government only targets those who are competent, rather than resolving the problem of lack of upward mobility."

Li also said that while he had no thoughts of retiring yet, plans were in place. "I have prepared well for retirement. My eldest son, Victor, [Li Tzar-kuoi] can take the helm anytime," he said.

 


The thoughts of Li Ka-shing

Hong Kong has many core values, such as an open and free market and the rule of law - which are not come by easily … If there is any mishandling in governance, these [values] would be all gone

[When making investments, I] must opt for countries that have fair laws ... The world's investment chances and choices are too overwhelming for us; the group can choose environments that have the rule of law and fair policies to invest in

Buying low and selling high is a normal commercial activity. All over the world, we are never criticised for pulling out capital - except in Hong Kong, where the never-ending rumours are regrettable

I have a deep love for the country and the people. My home is in Hong Kong. For me, Cheung Kong and Hutchison are based in Hong Kong; I absolutely will never move their domiciles

To gain fame means paying a price for easily attracting criticism … The larger the portion of the investments are in a particular place, the higher the chance [one] gets criticised [there]

I do not fear death. If I were a lamp, I could light up a road, with my still-alive foundation, which can only be destroyed politically

If I am to write an epitaph, I will select two phrases that back my will to fight every day: build up self; go after selflessness.

Sources: Nanfang Media Group / Cheung Kong Holdings

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34

This article is now closed to comments

Byebye
@caractacus "The domestic economy is dominated by cartels, duopolies or monopolies. The system is corrupt and the ordinary citizen has little chance of advancing unless by predatory behaviour at the expense of fellow citizens." ~ So, what can the ordinary Hong Kong citizens do? The future does look sad if such corrupt system is not taken seriously.
lenali2003
It is indeed a worrying situation that even Li Ka Shing points out there are problems with the current governance ..
What is actually happening to the HK government? Is the crisis caused only by CY?
Camel
LKS didn't support CY in the beginning and he won't do it in the future. LKS announced before the election of the CE, that he would leave HK for good if CY will be elected. Hs favorite was Henry Tang as Henry Tang was loved by the tycoons. He was their puppet and would have done anything to please the tycoons (as how Donald Tsang had done it before). So, what do you expect to hear from LKS about the government? Something nice? CY acted so far more for the people than for the tycoons. Expecially when he has started a war with the estates industry in trying to regulate the housing segment. An issue he always has been pursued since Tung Chee Hwa. Something LKS and others are hating him for.
singleline
According to Michael J. Boskin,
'Research reveals that strong enforcement of property rights and stable, predictable, and non-confiscatory tax and regulatory regimes are essential to long-run economic prosperity.
The key to China’s reform, and what the Chinese people want most, is John Adams’s “government of laws, not men” – even-handed administration of reasonable laws, not special favors for the connected few.'
caractacus
Exactly, and can China's authoritarian regime deliver those things?
daily
This guy is not even qualified to make comments on the topics in the article................we don't need another tycoon voicing out their "personal" opinions that have no substance.........
caractacus
He is talking about the rule of law, not of man. Can't you see he is taking a swipe at the way the present ruling system has been corrupted?
chuchu59
KS and Beijing may not bear grudges against each other but they are definitely not on the good terms they were before. More than a decade ago, the mainland relied heavily on KS's investment but with its economy in full flight they dont need him as much as they used to and rightly so lest they be guided by the invisible hand of one man. Beijing, like all regimes, demands total allegiance but you wont get it from this guy simply because he is so rich and has investments all over the world.
HK does not and should not rely on a single tycoon. The rule of law does not favour anybody as his second son should attest to. There may be a huge ripple if he decides to move most of his prime investments overseas together with the sale of CK building but its hardly a calamity. Half a decade on, his influence will wane considerably.
Nevertheless, he has benefitted HK tremendously and as a philanthropist, I salute him.
felix_wong
And dont forget the world is getting global and once the factory of the world should not think too highly of itself. KS has never put his eggs in one basket either.
rpasea
Hong Kong's core value: enabling a stranglehold on the economy and government by the elite thru monopolies, duopolies and cartels. The only reason the Brits were not kicked out earlier is they allowed a few select locals in on the game.
caractacus
Oh sure, the wicked colonial Brits allowed a few select locals in on the game, i.e. about 6 million of them. They only provided cheap public housing, free mass education, the rule of law, equality before the law, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation, enabled foreign passports and citizenship, not much.
What has China done for you?
Camel
think again
felix_wong
Absolutely true!
ianson
For all his faults, we have to applaud him for making rule of law and good governance prominent in his remarks. He came close, it seems, to slapping the CCP in the face.
lexishk
Yes, that was my impression too. He's self-interested to the point of denying obvious truths about the market distortions that have contributed so much to his wealth, but at least he seems to get the importance of the rule of law, good governance and education... more so than the 'administrators' that pass for government here.
caractacus
Here is wisdom from a man who has done well by hard work, enterprise, learned acumen and a good slice of luck who at his time of life has nothing to gain or lose by speaking his mind.
"Hong Kong cannot go down the path of rule of men. Hong Kong has many core values, such as an open and free market and the rule of law, which are not come by easily. "If there is any mishandling in governance, these [values] would all be gone."
How correct and apt to today's Hong Kong whose governance has fallen under the rule of men instead of law; actually they are less than men because so many are corrupt or sycophantic to the rule of other corrupt men.
"The only solution lies in providing a good education for our young generation. It would be wrong if the government only targets those who are competent, rather than resolving the problem of lack of upward mobility."
How right again. The domestic economy is dominated by cartels, duopolies or monopolies. The system is corrupt and the ordinary citizen has little chance of advancing unless by predatory behaviour at the expense of fellow citizens.
Byebye
@caractacus "The domestic economy is dominated by cartels, duopolies or monopolies. The system is corrupt and the ordinary citizen has little chance of advancing unless by predatory behaviour at the expense of fellow citizens." ~ therefore, what ordinary citizens can do but fall victims to the economy and the situation might get even worst for the struggling people on the street.
Byebye
@ caratacus "The domestic economy is dominated by cartels, duopolies or monopolies. The system is corrupt and the ordinary citizen has little chance of advancing unless by predatory behaviour at the expense of fellow citizens" ~ so, what can Hong Kong ordinary citizens and future generation do? Continue to accept monopolies, cartels etc....
Camel
What is agai n HKs core value Mr. LkS? Ripping off peoples hard earned money as you call this a free market? Those core values benefit only the rich and you but the people have to pay for your benefit. We can have a free market but essential goods like food, work, education and housing have to be regulated.
felix_wong
Please tell me, where on earth can you find such a system? China?!
caractacus
He has only worked within the system. He did not create it and he certainly had no hand in the corruption of the present system of Sino-administration.
babyhenry
Someone must be living in a hole to even claim that the tycoons did not play a part in creating this system.
felix_wong
To be honest the tables are turned now. The real tycoons are invisible and are the sons and daughters of the extreme corrupt officials in China!
caractacus
Only 18% of those polled say they would have voted for him if he had gone into politics. A rather strange question to ask in hindsight. Knowing what they now know, how many would vote for Donald Tsang, Henry Tang, C. Y. Leung and their crooked gang of cronies? Even 1%?
Camel
An opinion of a Filipino?
wwong888
Camel - You are a racist tw-t. Reveal your true identity. I want to bash your face in.
chuchu59
Despite Beijing's stance he stubbornly refused to withdraw his support for Henry in the last CE election. You could say he is a man of principle but it also says a lot about his perception on picking people for prime posts. A shrewd businessman definitely but not politician material.
John Adams
Maybe BJ told LKS and some other obedient tycoons to keep backing Tang so that it didn't become an avalanche win for CY ?
dng18dng18
A shrewd businessman indeed. In the construction business, you never wanna deal with CK cos they drag your debts out for eternity, starving you in the process.
impala
A shrewd businessman would keep out of such trivial political battles all together. How are CK/Hutch shareholders helped by the chairman backing Henry Tang, especially given the outcome?
sipsip1238
I think there is a lot of hate for him just purely because he is rich, but people overlook the fact that although he was at the right place at the right time, given the same circumstances, would we have worked just as hard to build an empire out of nothing, his rags-to-riches story does have dark patches, but it definitely offers more life lessons than stories of those who believe they deserve everything by birth.
He may be ruthless in his business dealings, but at the same time, as someone who runs the company, he's top priority is how much to return to his shareholders, which if we were in the same position, would've been forced to do the same, or if we can't, we would've been replaced.
I think when looking at someone, its better to be aware of the shortcomings but focus on strengths of that person, and he is probably one of the rare few riches that are at least willing to donate a fair bit of money to charities, compared to the vultures and even moderately wealthy people who wouldn't give a cent to a homeless person, he's already helped a lot of people.
There's no need to give away money if you can't, but there's always the option of giving your time to volunteer, and even then, most of us would rather spend a night out with friends than help out some at some charities.
kctony
Agree mostly. But from rags to riches. Are you sure?
norodnik
Considering that he started out selling plastic flowers and today we have a plastic government .... maybe Super Man made a kryptic admission here...
zvichadashote
Why would he want to go into politics? Oh, I forgot, maybe he wants to build a few illegal structures or put a new basement into his house!
 
 
 
 
 

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