Hong Kong property

Billionaire Lee Shau-kee labels Hong Kong sovereignty debate ‘outrageous,’ sees no reason for city to go it alone

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 9:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 9:42am

Property tycoon Lee Shau-kee called the idea of an independent Hong Kong “outrageous” and said there was no reason for the city to separate from the mainland.

“Hong Kong has already been returned to its rightful owner, and is governed by China,” said Lee, who was addressing the media after his company, Henderson Land Development, announced its annual earnings.

“There’s no reason for it, how will Hong Kong be independent [from the mainland]? It’s just outrageous.”

Lee’s comments echoed those of Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, who said last Thursday that the idea was far-fetched and that most people did not support an independent Hong Kong.

Last week, a senior legal official from Beijing had dismissed calls from some in Hong Kong to turn the city into an independent sovereign state in 2047, when the Sino-British Joint Declaration expires.

These remarks from political and financial heavyweights come at a time when the city is fraught with discussion about localism and the changing political landscape.

The 88-year-old billionaire, when asked by journalists about his thoughts on the Lunar New Year’s Mong Kok riot which left 125 people injured, brushed off the incident as “trivial.”

“There were less than a thousand people there, there are more fans at a soccer match [compared to Mong Kok],” said Lee.

Lee said the incident “may have been an impulsive act” and that the instigators needed to abide by the rules.

Lee’s eldest son and Henderson’s vice-chairman Peter Lee Ka-kit also added that Hongkongers should look to China for opportunities instead of complaining and criticising the government.

“It’s not that there are no opportunities for young people in Hong Kong, it’s that a lot of opportunities have now shifted to China,” said Peter Lee.

“[People in Hong Kong] should not do things that will separate Hong Kong from China, this does not do ourselves any good, and is definitely not beneficial to the economy,” said Peter Lee, who was not referring to any specific incident.

Amid a slowing Chinese economy, and as the city faces tumbling retail and property sales, the real estate magnate however, expressed confidence in Hong Kong’s economy.

While Li Ka-shing labelled it as one of the harshest economic conditions in two decades, even worse than the Sars epidemic, Lee said that the economy had fared better than it did in 2008 after the sudden collapse of US financial services firm Lehman Brothers.

Lee forecast that home prices would fall another five per cent in the coming two months, but would bottom out 30 per cent below the peak. Prices have already dropped 15 per cent.

Lee, who is also ranked as Hong Kong’s second richest man by Forbes, added that the company would be solely focused on investing in Hong Kong rather than overseas, seeing that Hong Kong is where his roots lie.

“My spoken English isn’t so good, and I don’t really like eating western food,” said Lee jokingly.

Meanwhile, the company revealed on Monday that it has sent in its redevelopment plan for Tai Hang Sai Estate to the Town Planning Board, and is waiting for approval.

It said the first phase of rebuilding the Shek Kip Mei estate would be completed by 2022, and would provide 1,289 residential units, while the whole project would house a total of almost five thousand.

The private run estate is the only one in the city that offers low-income tenants homes at below-market rents.