If you want to know how much influence the Hong Kong’s wealthy businessmen have on the governance, economy and social life of this city, this is the ultimate bellwether: at the official event marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Shenzhen as a special economic zone, China President Hu Jingtao has chosen to meet Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka Shing only and has ensured the meeting recorded and broadcast on TV.
The message is clear. Who is most important in town? The rich! Anyway, President Hu’s respect shown towards Mr Li is just a reflection of the city’s lean towards business and the country’s capitalist status quo. It is the capitalists who have the sway and the say, in HK and in China.
Just to give you some ideas about Hong Kong’s richest man’s sway over the city. Mr Li’s business empire controls one of the city’s two major supermarket chains, ParknShop; one of the key telecom carriers, Hutchison (and his son Richard Li controls another major carrier PCCW); one of the major property developers Cheong Kong; and one of the two major healthcare store chains Watsons, to name just a few.
This is a Hong Kong phenomenon: the wealthy like to donate, but only on the condition that their names be remembered. If you want to know the names of the rich in Hong Kong, just go visit the campus of any major university here. Many of their buildings are named after the rich in commemoration of their donation. My office, no joking, is located in a building named after Mr Li. It is very hard to avoid his influence and existence.