$500m Ho Tung trust valid

A trust fund worth about $500 million for charitable causes 'in the British colony of Hong Kong' remains valid despite the handover, a judge ruled yesterday.

Mrs Justice Doreen Le Pichon rejected claims that comprador Sir Robert Ho Tung, who died in 1956, would not have intended the charitable fund he established in his will to survive the handover.

Her ruling at the Court of First Instance paves the way for further distributions to be made from the Sir Robert Ho Tung Charitable Fund, which has been, in effect, frozen since the handover.

The use of the words 'British colony of Hong Kong' in Sir Robert's will were purely descriptive, the judge said. They were not the equivalent of 'so long as it remains a British colony'.

Two of Sir Robert's grandchildren, Eric and Antonia Ho Tung, had argued the trust should be declared void. This would have led to the money going to them and perhaps other beneficiaries.

They claimed that as a supporter of the Kuomintang, Sir Robert was hostile to the communist regime and would only have wanted his trust to be effective while Hong Kong was a British colony.

Problems arising from the handover had led the trustees, HSBC Trustee (Hong Kong) Ltd, to bring the case to court for clarification.

The fund was set up in Sir Robert's 1955 will. It was then worth $500,000 but is now valued at about $500 million.