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  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 6:31am

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
ECONOMY

Li Ka-shing warns Hong Kong is a 'spoilt child' set on a dangerous path

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 11:23pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 10:59am
 

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Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, has warned that Hong Kong is like "a spoilt child" and said the city was headed down a dangerous path of populism.

If the trend was not stopped, the city would have gone "totally wrong" in as little as five years.

In his second interview with a major mainland news outlet since November, Li advised the city's government to invest more in innovation and technology to improve competitiveness, and not to focus solely on poverty relief.

The chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa, who is ranked 20th in Forbes magazine's list of the world's super-rich this year, told online news service Caixin.com: "My family was poor and there was a time when we were left completely destitute. I will never forget that. I very much understand what it is like when you need to worry about making ends meet every day.

"And it is also natural that such a situation gives rise to populism. But the important point is that society should find ways to resolve problems and not get stuck in a state of anger."

He said Singapore had been outpacing Hong Kong in recent years - without the advantage of having mainland China as its hinterland. "Singapore is congenitally deficient while Hong Kong is a spoilt child. Populism is rising in Hong Kong, and if this goes on, the city would look totally wrong in five to six years."

He blamed politicians for the rise of populism, criticising them for taking advantage of social problems as a "platform to get votes and power".

Poverty relief was at the heart of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's policy address in January, but the tycoon said: "Helping the poor cannot solve the problems of declining competitiveness."

Instead, Li said, the city should model itself on Singapore by investing in innovation and technology. "I think Hong Kong people need a greater sense of urgency. Although this argument might perhaps seem disquieting, one must have the right attitude about change while moving forward, and not develop a falsely confined mindset thanks to living in a generally affluent place for a long time," he added. "Ignoring the potential and advantages of other places only makes one's thinking unnecessarily rigid."

In November, Li spoke to the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Media Group, revealing details about the kidnapping of his elder son, Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, by crime king "Big Spender" Cheung Tze-keung 18 years ago.

His son, now 49, was released and Cheung was executed in 1998 after telling his trial that he had received a HK$1.38 billion ransom from the tycoon.

In the November interview, Li also indicated his discontent with Leung's administration, saying: "Hong Kong cannot go down the path of 'rule of man'." The phrase is generally taken to mean the absence of rule of law and a society where one person or group rules arbitrarily.

In 2012, Li told Forbes he was prepared to hand over his empire to Victor Li, but had no immediate plans to step down.

Dr Li Kui-wai, an economist at City University, said it might be too simplistic to blame populism for Hong Kong's declining competitiveness or social problems.

"Hong Kong people are used to making quick money by speculating in, say, property," he said. "Even Mr Li Ka-shing makes a lot of money here by selling flats. He does not seem to have invested a lot in Hong Kong in recent years."

In the Caixin.com interview, Li said his conglomerates would continue investing in Hong Kong but their overseas investments were growing more rapidly because "it took time to digest" Hong Kong government policies.

Li said they had been expanding overseas since 1980 because he had noticed the limited growth prospects in Hong Kong.

The group had become one of the biggest investors in countries such as Canada, Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and Austria, he added.

"Many governments understand that maintaining a stable economic environment is very important for investors, as any successful business will … help to improve the country's long-term prosperity," he said.

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patrick.gifford.180
amazing how these people hang on to their power and control ,
why don t you just go on long holiday with your money, let young people build their wealth .
Hong kong economy is a big monopoly , no competition , etc.. just plain ridiculous
cheungly
Why dont you donate all your wealth to charity now and start from ground zero? Be more realistic yeah?
wiltrials
Let's hope HK doesn't go down the 'war on poverty' path like the US does. Look at how successful that has been going. Why is HK introducing minimum wage when it clearly fails in other welfare nations?
Poverty will always exist when you have an unjust economic system that is based on debt and where inflation is built into the system; where speculation is encouraged and savings discouraged. Anyone who wants to understand why the poor keep getting poorer should watch the documentary Money as Debt on youtube.
skywalker
"He blamed politicians for the rise of populism, criticising them for taking advantage of social problems as a "platform to get votes and power"."
Is he joking? Who is actually voting for Hong Kong polititians? Not the public!
johndoe
Look, the billionare is talking. How about raising wages in his firms to decent levels and stop engaging in anti competitive practices.
auszero.comment
Hong Kong is fine.
They simply have to take Li Ka-shing to the top of the IFC... and throw him off.
whoaman
Uh, by the way, Mr. Li, have you thought about WHY Hong Kong has so many people below the poverty line?? Have you looked at how Singapore helps their people own homes instead of jacking up the prices to ridiculous amounts (of which you are complicit in your greed), and monopolising telecom (less now thanks to more 'competitiveness'), supermarkets, Watsons, etc, etc, etc....
What a hypocrite this guy is.
scmpgt
Li ka shing cannot possibly represent the voice of any HKer. He has so many personal get-rich agendas.... he is out of touch with reality. He is more out of touch than CY.
min_cheung@hotmail.com
Hong kong needs a true LEADER that has vision, not a stupid greedy filthy rich men. I am willing to sacrifice my time to do something about the situation instead of just bitching about it. I bet if i created an origination to looking for a leader with vision and help Hong Kong people to get to the right path I will not find any responses and volunteers, since there is no money to be make. Let's see how many people will be response the post . Shortsighted Hong kong people please awake up. The only way you can help is yourself not the rich not the GOV'T.
min_cheung@hotmail.com
Hong Kong needs a true LEADER has vision not thee stupid greedy filthy rich men. I a willing to sacrifice my time to do something about the situation instead of just bitching about it. I bet if i created an origination to looking for a leader with vision and help Hong Kong people to get to the right path I will not find any responses and VOLUNTEERS, since there is no none to be made.
SHORTSIGHTED (People here). Please wake up !!!!!. Let see how many people willing to work instead of talk

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