Rich kids in bid to earn a crust

THEY are privileged, rich and well connected - and they are Hongkong's ''lost generation''.

These are the scions of some of the territory's wealthiest families; their fathers and grandfathers made their fortunes in the middle of the century.

Usually pictured with a vacuous smile and a wine glass in their hands at receptions, they look as if they have never had to do a day's work in their lives, thanks to their inherited wealth.

But, according to Ms Hemi Yip Wai-mei, they are fighting back, and they have started their campaign in Shanghai.

Ms Yip and her husband, Mr Patrick Chan Hing-kuen, have been quietly carving out a lucrative niche for themselves in the coastal metropolis. And using a simple cake shop as a springboard for an ambitious plan to develop a chain of retail outlets on the back of real estate ventures.

Partnering them in the territory is a clutch of well-heeled thirty-something Hongkong people, including Mr Julian Hui and his wife, Ms Pansy Ho, daughter of Stanley; Mr Chau Kai-bong's nephew, Mr Kevin Chau Kwok-fun, and wealthy philanthropist Ms Sally Leung's son, Mr Jay Henry Leung, who runs Leighton Textiles.

''They could represent something of a lost generation - the third and fourth generation of Chinese families who have made money but who may not have the same direction and drive as their grandfathers,'' Ms Yip said.

''It is gratifying to see what they are doing with us - making a go of something on their own, and not only by trading stocks and shares,'' said Mr Chan.

The Huis joined the Chans for the opening of the Chantilly bread and pastry outlet in Shanghai's Nanjing Road earlier this year, when guests of honour Sally Yeh and Chow Yun-fatt were prevented from conducting the opening ceremony at the shop by the Public Security Bureau because of the huge crowds outside their hotel.

''Pansy and Julian are two of the brightest people I know; Kevin has got tremendous banking skills, and Jay is remarkably hard-working,'' enthused Mr Chan.

''My partners and myself have got a really good understanding.

''In Shanghai you have to move so quickly. You cannot listen to someone's proposition and then tell him to wait while you consult your partners, because there are up to 20 other parties chasing the same thing,'' said Mr Chan, who spends half his time in Shanghai.

After discreetly building up their base the Chans decided it was time they and their partners made themselves better known.

Ms Yip said: ''The big companies had never heard of us before - we were the newcomers - but I think they know who were are now.''