China Power

Hong Kong’s Richest Man Promises to Elect Someone Who Loves the City

The influential businessman pledges to put his vote on the Election Committee to good use.

Hong Kong’s Richest Man Promises to Elect Someone Who Loves the City
Credit: Flickr/ EdTech Stanford University School of Medicine

Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man and a member of the chief executive Election Committee, has promised to elect a leader who is “capable of bringing hope” to the city.

“I would wholeheartedly pick a chief executive who loves Hong Kong, is faithful to the Basic Law, is capable of bringing hope for Hongkongers, is trusted by the country and can fight for the best future for Hong Kong under the framework of ‘one country, two systems,’”  the chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings wrote on his platform for the Election Committee, which will elect Hong Kong’s next chief executive in March 2017.

The Election Committee is a 1,200-member panel that selects the city’s leader from a group of Chinese government-approved nominees. The 88-year-old is often considered a product of Hong Kong’s free market economy. A real life rags-to-riches story, Li started out selling plastic flowers at market stalls before rising to the pinnacle of the property development industry and that of global wealth, ranking 20th in this year’s Forbes’ The World’s Billionaires list.

Li has always had an independent mind and has been vocal in his support for the core values of the city, such as a free market and the rule of law.

Not all business tycoons have been as liberal as Li in their views. Thomas Lau Luen-hung, chief executive of Lifestyle International, the operator of the Sogo department store, stated his strong opposition to Hong Kong independence advocacy and has been indignant at the Occupy Movement in the past.

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Incumbent Chief Executive CY Leung responded indirectly to Li’s remarks before a weekly Executive Council meeting.

“The SAR government and society have a common vision on building Hong Kong in various aspects – developing the economy, improving livelihood, and, in particular, solving land and housing shortages, which the residents are very concerned about. Our work in this aspect has been hopeful,” said Leung.

James Tien Pei-chun, the honorary chairman of the pro-Beijing Liberal Party, is a strong opponent to the incumbent chief executive and has said the next leader needs to be one who can truthfully represent the will of the Hong Kong people to the Chinese government.

Earlier in the week, Leung tried to engage the city’s youth at a forum, pleading them to allow him access to the city’s “sacred and inviolable” country parks in order to build cheap housing, despite his development secretary saying no country parks would be touched during the current government’s term. Leung was criticized and sworn at during the forum.

Leung did not go as far as to announce he will run for a second term, however.

This week has once again shown Leung’s reactive style of politics, and the discontent at his leadership by the people of Hong Kong, both young and old.