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  • Nov 28, 2014
  • Updated: 8:53am

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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This article is now closed to comments

pjp
"Instead, Li said, the city should model itself on Singapore by investing in innovation and technology"
Great idea how about a cyberhub, say even a cyberport! What? that was just a load of nonsense so your son could flog property, oh I see - well played. In all seriousness that is such a flabbergasting thing to come out with.
It really seems like the govt. has been solely focused on Tourism for the past several years which, as pointed out by numerous columnists, only really benefits the existing tycoon property developers who also own the retail shops and hotels. I agree I think the HK spirit has been squashed by the govt. and the tycoons but it is hard to see with current property prices for residential and commercial how people can start lives and businesses here.
Ant Lee
Do not understand why any one in the civilised world would look for views/advice from a self-interest self-promoting businessman with vested interests in every aspect of society. He is the one who has been exploiting Hong Kong more than anyone else.
anthonygmail
"Investing in innovation and technology". Yes Tung tried that and look at what Cyberport has become. Please smack Richard's bottom on our behalf, will you?
.
"Helping the poor cannot solve declining competitiveness". Well he would say that wouldn't he, being a rags-to-riches man (blessed with luck and assistance from certain guardian angels) but how much HK has changed in the past 50 years. Is he advocating that the poor live in squatter camps and work hard selling plastic flowers?
.
He should realise that he and his peers have changed HK to make it much harder for the poor to have much chance of escaping poverty.
.
This man is incredibly hard working, talented, driven and most of all LUCKY. Any wrong/unlucky move when he was young, such as getting caught escaping the mainland, not having HSBC support, or not marrying his wife etc etc could have led to a totally different life for him. So rather than being so smug about his achievements, he should save some karma and think more of what he can do for HK.
soosan
I think the tycoons have been spoilt in the last decade... AND now that they are not making the high profits they use to on residential developments in Hong Kong, they are having a temper tantrum and blaming someone else... As for competitiveness, that never existed within Hong Kong itself because the tycoons own the monopoly of utlilities, supermarkets, housing.....
Mr Li can you of all people really complain... give something back to the Hong Kong people instead of just taking from their hard earned pennies.....
min_cheung@hotmail.com
Please do not keep blaming China or the selfish Li. The people in Hong kong need to wake up. Stop let the rich like (Li ) take advantage of you.
min_cheung@hotmail.com
I am Chinese. I have been living and traveling around the world of course include Hong kong. I have to say that the wealthy families in Hong Kong are most selfish and do eve thing for their own benefits and spoil their children. They are not helping these children as decent human beings but it does help the economics from the reckless spending. Now he could not make quick money in Hong Kong no . Mr. Li is one of complainers as well. Do something about it (create jobs, educate people) with your time and money for the Hong Kong society. Stop complaining.
A Hong Konger
It is tremendously arrogant of LKS to compare HK to a 'spoilt child' given that he makes his money off the rent we pay. He is a w*ore like all property tycoons, we cannot blame him for this, if he had the courage and integrity of Jimmy Lai he could not be in the rigged property game that is rigged by the SAR gov and like-minded sycophants like Gordon Wu who would see more mainlanders push up property prices.
However, he is correct is saying our competitiveness is declining, but this is not due to 'populism' or more accurately our outrage at being shackled like the colonial subjects that we are, but rather because we are too focused on China. Integration with China will spell our economic and political end. China has more pressing concerns and only wants us to be silent, the less economic power we have the better for China in the long run. Furthermore none of us wish to be tied to China when it's growth sputters (best case) or crashes (worst case). The focus on innovation and technology is obvious for a technologically advanced place like HK, and the Singapore model is not entirely objectionable (except for it's authoritarian political system and issues with Chinese migrants), strong state-funded enterprises and less sycophant tycoons, and a comprehensive, if flawed, welfare state are appealing. But they have political independence to implement policies that are in their best interests, ours is geared to integrating HK with the mainland which is only in China's interest.
nmp_inc
Rather, HK's 'patriotic tycoons' have failed HK after getting spoiled by chasing the mainland market and getting 'sweeteners' galore rather than innovating and keeping HK at the fore. Instead of taking the high road to break new ground, they took the easy road to tourism, property development, and mainland investments. On top of that, because they've kept more than a lion's share of the spoils and leaving only crumbs to the workers even while squeezing more and more money from them, they've created the foundation for social unrest that is resulting in the populism that Li claims to be threatening HK. Hong Kong did not just accidentally get to be the most economically unequal system in the advanced capitalist world - it was made and built that way through crony capitalism and worse.
The HKSAR government, political system, and current political environment shares some blame but it is the tycoons themselves who hold the largest responsibility for the failure to innovative and blaze the future for HK. All talk and no decision; isn't that what they used to say about Tung Chee-hua. Sounds like the tycoons and corporate elite classes are just as guilty.
daily
Who cares what LKS thinks?.............yes, he's accumulated a lot of wealth and still cannot accept stepping down to pass things onto his son because he just can't stand not being in the limelight.
HK and the HK society would be a better place without his monopolization over so many businesses............Rather than hear this guy's BS, let's wait to see how HK would be a better place once he's gone.
Camel
the Problem is not the Rich and their rich kids. The problem is that every single HKner thinks he is something better and should have the same privilege like the rich. That you first have to earn those privilege, they don't get, so that is why they are spoiled.
About decency. If you just look on the street in Mongkok out of 10 person I met 8 of them are rude, have foul language if you stand in their way and how they talk they treat others. You just have to look at persons how they treat their maids at home. There they are the boss and employer and there they feel in the higher commanding position to order what they want.
Li Ka Sheng has created many jobs in HK already and is still. Education is a job of the HK Government and they lack of vision. But the Opposition along with the radicals are even worse. They lack of brains. But it is also the HKners who should be willing to learn, to adapt and to look forward, not backwards and stand still.

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