Hong Kong businessman bids HK$18.8 million for calligraphy by Beijing official at DAB fundraiser

Dinner event raises more than HK$60 million for pro-establishment party

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 9:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 9:55am

How much would one pay to get a “thank you” from Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong?

For businessman Gunter Gao Jinde, the answer to that question is HK$18.8 million.

Gao, chairman of Sunbase International, outbid rivals for a piece of Zhang Xiaoming’s calligraphy at a fundraising dinner for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong on Monday.

Gao’s offer set a new record for Zhang’s work. Another piece of calligraphy by the senior official was sold for HK$13.8 million at the party’s previous fund-raising event in 2014.

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Gao is a local delegate of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. On his company’s website, he is described as a “prominent businessman and a patriot of China and Hong Kong”.

Gao also sponsored the publication of several books to promote “the glorious image of the People’s Liberation Army as a civilising and a powerful force”, according to the website.

Monday’s event, held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, saw the participation of some 800 guests, including Zhang, the director of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, acting chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, and deputy commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong Song Ruran.

The pro-Beijing party raised more than HK$60 million at the dinner, according to initial estimates. In 2014, the party raised about HK$68 million.

Zhang offered for auction a piece of his calligraphy, featuring the Chinese phrase “Duo De Er Chu”, which roughly translates as “one should act according to one’s own moral strength”.

After opening at HK$3.8 million, it was eventually sold to Gao for HK$18.8 million.

Thanking the businessman for his generosity, Zhang said: “It is not that [Gao] has given me face. I would say, he is giving face to DAB. The party actually deserves our trust and support.”

Zhang also praised the party for its rapid growth and its sincerity in serving Hong Kong.

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He joked that he would offer the phrase to the person who intended to run for chief executive but was defeated in the end.

Another work of calligraphy by Jao Tsung-I, a world-renowned scholar in Chinese and Oriental studies, was auctioned off for about HK$3 million.

The buyer was Hui Wing-mau, chairman of the Shimao Group. He is also vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese.

Two DAB veterans, former chairman Tam Yiu-chung and incumbent chairwoman Starry Lee Wing-king, raised HK$5 million by singing a song together.

In 2014, Zhang had also taken to the stage in addition to contributing a piece of calligraphy, singing a song to raise more cash for the party – to the tune of HK$11 million.

Founded in 1992, the DAB holds 12 seats on the Legislative Council. A total of 117 of its members are district councillors. With a membership of over 32,000, it is arguably the biggest political party in Hong Kong.