Hong Kong’s top billionaire appeals for calm ahead of more protests
Hong Kong’s richest man has added his voice to a growing clamor from the city’s business elite for calm as pro-democracy protests enter their 11th week.
“In the name of love, please turn away from anger,” read an advertisement published by Li Ka-shing in several local newspapers in Hong Kong on Friday.
Other Hong Kong billionaires have weighed in already but Li’s intervention is particularly significant. The legendary tycoon oversaw a business empire that spans shipping, telecommunications and retail. He retired as chairman of his company last year and now serves as a senior adviser. Bloomberg estimates his net worth at $27 billion.
Several days ago, CK Asset Holdings — the real estate developer owned by CK Hutchison, the company Li founded — joined more than a dozen companies in signing a statement strongly condemning violent protests in the city. But this is first time Li has made a personal appeal to demonstrators.
“The road to Hell is often paved with good intentions,” Li added in a statement provided to CNN Business by his spokesperson. “We need to be mindful of unintended consequences.”
“It is hard to imagine a better world when the community is highly charged,” Li continued. “Violence in thoughts and actions is not a mean to accomplish any vision because they misrepresent, peaceful situations can come to feel dangerous, the percolation thereafter will be self-fulfilling.”
China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom warned Thursday that the central government in Beijing has the “solutions and enough power” under Hong Kong law to quell unrest if the situation deteriorates further. Hong Kong’s government is legally allowed to request help from the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army garrison that is already based in the city.
Armored personnel carriers and uniformed officers of the People’s Armed Police — a Chinese paramiliary force — were seen by a CNN correspondent Wednesday at a stadium in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, near the internal border with Hong Kong.
Swire Pacific, one of the city’s richest family-owned business empires, threw its support behind the city’s government earlier this week and condemned “illegal activities and violent behavior.” Property tycoon Peter Woo also called on protesters to ease off.
The city’s tycoons have been speaking out in recent days as the economic effects of the protests grow more apparent. About $8.8 billion has been wiped off the market value of Li’s CK Asset since its recent peak in early April. The company had lost even more value earlier this week before markets rebounded.
Hong Kong markets were already suffering because of the US-China trade war and China’s slowing economy. But the city’s political turmoil has created even more pressure.
“People are jittery about the escalating unrest and no one knows when it could end,” Louis Wong, director of Phillip Capital Management, told CNN Business earlier this week. “It has already dampened buyers mood on the property market.”
Business leaders who have interests in Hong Kong also have to be careful about the relationship they have with Beijing and what kind of message they send to the mainland.
Cathay Pacific, for example, has been caught in a political firestorm because of the protests. The company said Friday that CEO Rupert Hogg would resign. Earlier in the week, the airline warned that it could fire employees who take part in illegal protests. Hundreds of its flights were canceled when protesters overran the airport.
— CNN Business’ Laura He contributed to this report.