Newspapers once used any excuse to put a photo of Li Ka-shing on the front page to help boost sales. Such property tycoons used to be seen as the epitome of success. How times have changed! The pendulum has swung the other way. Now they are practically seen as the root of all the city's social ills. Hardly a week went by without a protest against the 'property hegemony', a notion referring to the alleged dominance of big property developers over local politics and the economy. A new survey by the Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies has pretty much confirmed what we already know. Two out of three people think developers only care about maximising profits and care nothing about social responsibility. Eighty-five per cent say they are familiar with the hegemony notion, and 78 per cent think it is a reality. The younger and more educated, the likelier they are to believe in the undue and unhealthy dominance of developers. This critique is most succinctly argued in Alice Pooh Wai-han's Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong, which has become the anti-property manifesto for young activists. Just as their virtue and ability were once exaggerated, the tycoons' omnipotence is now overstated. The developers haven't changed, but Hong Kong society has - profoundly. So the same market-dominating behaviour and sales tactics, once tolerated or even encouraged, are no longer acceptable. Developers have gotten away with self-regulation for decades. The result has been smaller, costlier flats, their adverts often bordering on outright falsehoods. The extreme social and economic inequality fuelled by high land premiums is reaching breaking point. Developers would be smart to recognise the writing on the wall.