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Li Ka-shing

Don’t rely on family wealth and natural gifts, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing tells graduates

City’s richest man gives advice at graduation ceremony at Shantou University, to which he has pledged HK$8 billion since its founding in 1981

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 10:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 11:27pm

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, has cautioned people who only yearn to “win at the starting line” – by being born into family wealth or being gifted – that destiny is not guaranteed.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony of Shantou University in eastern Guangdong on Tuesday, the tycoon said young people were doomed to fail if they put all their hope on family wealth and natural gifts.

“Ignorant people always complain they are forced to follow the rules,” Li said. “They desire to win at the starting line, hoping they have the superior combination of a wealthy dad and natural talents.”

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“But with such beliefs, they have already lost at the starting line.”

Shantou University was founded in 1981 with financial backing from Li. His charity has so far pledged a total of HK$8 billion to the institution.

Li has been attending the university’s graduation ceremony in Shantou for 16 years. He was joined by Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan this year.

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Li quoted poet W.B. Yeats’ line “how can we know the dancer from the dance”, adding dancers inspired people to go beyond their limits and strive for excellence.

Wearing a cap and a red gown, the tycoon and the school’s honorary chairman said students should struggle against fatigue and pain and aim for perfection through endless trying.

“I will turn 90 next year,” he said. “I was once a young man. I went through all the hardships and deeply understand that growing up is a very difficult process.”

I went through all the hardships and deeply understand that growing up is a very difficult process
Li Ka-shing

The magnate has given away more than US$2 billion through the Li Ka-shing Foundation, which Li calls his “third son”.

He once called for Asians to break the tradition of passing on wealth by lineage and instead use their money to engineer positive changes in society.

But like many other Hong Kong tycoons, the assets Li amassed have helped his children become owners of big corporations.

Last week, Li named his elder son, Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, as his successor in the family business, which spans property, ports, retail stores and telecommunications.

At the same time, he promised to continue backing the businesses of his younger son, Richard Li Tzar-kai, who runs a media empire and a life insurance company.

Richard Li accompanied his father on the trip to Shantou, according to a press release from Li’s conglomerate CK Hutchison.

The two took a ride through the campus on a golf buggy as the elder Li lectured his son on the university’s history and development plans.