Big business gave significant donations to Hong Kong chief executive-elect Carrie Lam

Donations for election winner totalled HK$18.7 million – with large proportion coming from business leaders and their wives, children and staff

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2017, 6:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2017, 11:59am

Hong Kong’s incoming leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, received much of her HK$18.7 million in election donations from business leaders, who also mobilised their wives, children and staff to bankroll her campaign.

It came as no surprise that the candidate favoured by Beijing for the chief executive’s post was backed by most of the city’s tycoons, but records released by the Registration and Electoral Office yesterday put the spotlight on their levels of commitment.

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Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee’s family was one of the major contributers after she set a cap of HK$100,000 for each of her 227 donors. Although the tycoon himself did not chip in, his daughters Susanna Lee Pui-yee and Margaret Lee Pui-man and younger son Martin Lee Ka-shing each donated the maximum amount, as did three executive directors of the property giant.

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, did not personally donate either, but left it to three of his senior employees at Cheung Kong Property Holdings – chairman’s office manager Amy Au Siu-yin, executive committee member Yip Kin-ming and executive director Chung Sun-keung.

A surprise donor was Thomas Jefferson Wu, Hopewell Holdings’ second-generation boss, the only business leader who nominated Lam’s arch-rival, John Tsang Chun-wah.

Also mobilising his family to donate was Sino Land boss Robert Ng Chee Siong, whose wife Yeoh Saw Kheng, elder son Daryl and daughter Nikki contributed.

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Similarly, Chinese-Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok Hok Nien, his sons Khoon Hua and Khoon Chen and elder daughter Hui Kwong gave HK$100,000 each to Lam’s campaign.

Lam also received donations from Emperor Group chairman Albert Yeung Sau-shing and his son Alex. The elder Yeung donated another HK$30,000 to the third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing.

Hong Kong’s electoral law does not set a cap on donations, but forbids candidates to accept more than HK$1,000 from anonymous donors.

Lam has donated a surplus of about HK$6 million from her campaign fund to seven charities.

The tycoons and businesses had no choice but to give face and make their political investments
Chung Kim-wah, political commentator

Political commentator Chung Kim-wah of Polytechnic University said the multiple donations from big business reflected Beijing’s influence over the election.

“Beijing and its liaison office have heavily lobbied the business sector to unite behind Lam,” he said. “The tycoons and businesses had no choice but to give face and make their political investments.”

Chung was also worried that Lam would have to pay off “political debts”, although the incoming leader had stressed she owed nothing to anyone.

Lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who failed to qualify for the election because she could not secure enough nominations, was also critical. “It is unnecessary to raise such a large amount of money. It shows that a lot of people are beating a path to Lam’s door, trying to butter up the ‘hot favourite’ in the race.”

Ip spent more than the donations she received for the campaign, paying HK$350,000 from her own pocket.

Woo spent even more of his own money – a total of HK$1.83 million – since the HK$1.3 million he received in donations was not enough to cover his total expenses of HK$3.16 million.

The other candidate, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, raised HK$15.3 million and spent HK$10.2 million. Details of his donations and expenditure will be released on Thursday.

ILLUSTRIOUS DONORS

Tycoons whose family members or employees donated money to Carrie Lam’s campaign:

• Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee’s younger son Martin, daughters Susanna and Margaret, granddaughter Kristine and three company directors

• Three senior employees of Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Property Holdings

• Sino Land boss Robert Ng Chee Siong, his wife Yeoh Saw Kheng, elder son Daryl and daughter Nikki

• Kerry Group founder Robert Kuok Hock Nien, his sons Khoon Hua and Khoon Chen and elder daughter Hui Kwong

• Emperor Group chairman Albert Yeung Sau-sing and his younger son Alex

• Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, his brother Ian Chun-wan and his two sons Eric and Kenneth

Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam