Tycoon Li Ka-shing admits he can't sleep for worry about Hong Kong's problems

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 June, 2014, 3:41am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 June, 2014, 9:37am

Li Ka-shing has revealed he is having trouble sleeping.

Widening inequality, an intensifying scarcity of resources and a decline in trust are some of the issues keeping him awake at night.

The 85-year-old tycoon revealed his problem in a gloomy speech to graduates at Shantou University yesterday entitled, "Sleepless in Hong Kong".

Li, the honorary chairman of the university's council, said widening inequality in wealth and opportunities, if left unaddressed, could fast become "the new normal".

He told graduates: "The howl of rage from polarisation and the crippling cost of welfare dependence is a toxic cocktail commingled to stall growth and foster discontent."

He said trust, the bedrock of an enlightened society, "is crumbling before our eyes".

But a change in direction could better foster an environment of growth and harmony.

He called for the government to introduce dynamic and flexible wealth redistribution policies that struck the right balance between promoting equality and economic objectives.

Li urged the graduates to be "custodians of their future" as an "antidote for everyone's insomnia".

He sought to inject urgency to the debate on the scarcity of the city's resources, saying it would pose "challenges of immense proportions to our future".

The Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa chairman, ranked 13th on Forbes magazine's list of the world's super-rich, has been holding forth in recent months. In March, in an interview with online news service Caixin.com he likened the behaviour of Hongkongers to that of "a spoilt child" as they headed down a dangerous path of populism. Last year, Li said the city could not go down the path of "rule of man".

Dr Li Kui-wai, an economist at City University, said that while he was right to speak up on issues, it was up to those with influence to change matters.

"It's true that people are not investing in Hong Kong … and it's sad because all these tycoons are not looking to Hong Kong to help boost its development. These are the people who can bring Hong Kong to a new stage, who talk, who hold the keys. And these are the ones who can change Hong Kong economically. Why are they not doing it?" asked Dr Li.