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Hong Kong's disaffected youth

Tycoon Michael Kadoorie says he has ‘full faith’ in Hong Kong’s youth, and city will ‘thrive and thrive’

Kadoorie, 76, whose family owns controlling stake in major power supplier, says city has faced myriad challenges before and come out on top

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 10:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 3:17pm

The head of one of Hong Kong’s wealthiest families has said he is optimistic about the city’s future despite the constant stream of negative news, and has faith in Hong Kong’s youth.

Michael Kadoorie, 76, whose family owns a controlling stake in CLP Holdings, which supplies power to nearly 80 per cent of Hong Kong’s population, made the comments to the Post prior to the release of never-before-seen photos taken by his father, Lawrence Kadoorie.

“I feel [Hong Kong] is going to thrive and thrive more. We’ve always faced challenges,” Kadoorie said.

He cited the refugee crisis of 1952 as a great challenge to the city that Hong Kong overcame. The city faced an influx of refugees from the mainland as the Communist Party took power, increasing the population from 600,000 to 2.2 million in the span of one year.

“We had to adapt. That was far more of a crisis than the umbrella movement,” Kadoorie said, referring to the 79-day protest for universal suffrage that brought the city to a standstill in 2014.

The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong was also a traumatic time for the city’s residents, but Hong Kong rebuilt itself, he added.

Kadoorie said he had “full faith” in the ability of Hong Kong’s youth to keep the city’s future bright.

A consistent stream of negative news about Hong Kong and its future did not discourage the business tycoon, because negative news was present “all over the world” and the city was not unique.

The Iraqi-Jewish family moved to Hong Kong in the 1880s when Michael Kadoorie’s grandfather, Elly, left his hometown of Baghdad.

Never-before-seen photos of Hong Kong life in 1950s released by wealthy Kadoorie family

While the family settled in Shanghai first, they kept various personal and business connections in Hong Kong. They moved permanently to the then British colony in 1949 after the Communists took over mainland China and nationalised industries, including those owned by the Kadoories in Shanghai.

Optimism for the city seems to run in the family. Michael Kadoorie’s grandfather said: “Never worry about Hong Kong so long as they are digging holes”, pointing to the city’s continued development as a sign of progress.

The Kadoorie family had a rare window to the future of Hong Kong since their business of providing electricity to the city required them to plan years ahead, not just for the infrastructure but also the political and social considerations, according to Kadoorie.

“There’s so many areas that get involved ... to have contact and build trust at all levels gives you a wonderful opportunity to know what the future thinking is and future trends,” he said.

“And I think we built our confidence [in Hong Kong] on that and it’s a window which gives one quite a lot of clarity.”

Michael Kadoorie’s Hong Kong Heritage Project sheds light on city’s history from war to decolonisation

Kadoorie said he cemented his confidence in the city by looking to the future of trade and development in the world.

“There will be certain areas where like in any main city anywhere there will be a few reversals, but by and large the opportunities are in this part of the world ... Look at the world’s focus, where is it? It’s not in Europe, not in America, it’s [in Asia],” he said.

“[There are] 1.3 billion people [in China], how are you going to ignore them?”