How much would one pay to get a blessing for a successful future from Beijing's top representative in Hong Kong?
For property tycoon Hui Wing-mau, it's HK$13.8 million.
That's the amount he shelled out for a piece of calligraphy by Zhang Xiaoming , director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, featuring a Chinese phrase that roughly translates as "a long success in the future". It was part of a record HK$63.8 million raised by Hong Kong's largest Beijing-loyalist political party at its biennial fund-raising event on Tuesday.
Seventy tables were set for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's dinner, with the hosts of each paying at least HK$88,000.
About 800 people attended the event at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, including Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his ministers.
Shimao Property chairman Hui made the first bid of HK$5 million for Zhang's calligraphy. Tam Kam-kau, a leader of the Guangxi community in Hong Kong, also joined the bidding, but Hui won with the biggest single sum raised during the event. Zhang later sang a song, raising a further HK$11 million from Tam and others.
Contributions by Beijing's liaison offices did not end there. A painting by former deputy director of the Hong Kong office Li Gang - now director of the Macau office - was sold for HK$5 million to Hong Kong's richest woman, Pansy Ho Chiu-king, a director of gaming giant Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau.
Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming slammed Zhang's assistance to the DAB.
"Under the principle of 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' and a 'high degree of autonomy', the liaison office should not interfere by favouring a particular political party," Lee said on Commercial Radio.
Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun said tycoons would buy up whatever items were auctioned. "It's understandable, the DAB is controlled by the liaison office and Beijing," said Tien. "All those donations were made because people want to donate to the liaison office."
The Civic Party raised HK$2.8 million at an auction marking its eighth anniversary last Friday, while the Democratic Party made HK$2.35 million from an anniversary auction last year.