For people living in Hong Kong, it is hard not to be touched in some way by Sun Hung Kai group entities and their projects and services.
The group’s real-estate flagship, Sun Hung Kai Properties, has built many landmark residential and commercial structures in the city, including iconic towers such as the International Finance Centre and the International Commerce Centre (ICC).
Controlled by the Kwok brothers – now made up of Thomas and Raymond minus the ousted Walter — the group had 28.7 million square feet of completed investment properties and a further 17.9 million square feet under development as of end-2013.
If you are not working in one of the group’s office properties, chances are that you might be living in one of Sun Hung Kai’s several residential housing estates across Hong Kong, or be preparing to move into one of its upcoming projects in districts such as Yuen Long, Tseung Kwan O or North Point.
Taking pride in its motto “Building Homes with Heart”, the developer has no shortage of loyal shareholders, many of whom packed a room at its headquarters last November for an annual meeting.
Even if you have managed to escape being under Sun Hung Kai’s property radar screen, you may be using the group’s Kowloon Motor Bus fleet, which carry 2.6 million passengers a day, or possibly be a customer of Smartone Telecommunication, the telecom subsidiary which has 1.87 million customers.
That is not all. The group’s properties include four well-known four Royal hotels (Royal Garden, Royal Park, Royal View and Royal Plaza), and two hot tourist spots – Noah’s Ark in Ma Wan and the Sky 100 Observation Deck atop the ICC. And there is Sunevision, the biggest data center operator in the city, serving thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises.
It is not just in business where the blue-chip property firm claims to stand out from the rest. Promoting art and culture and aiming to be a “positive force in the community”, Sun Hung Kai organizes an annual Nobel Laureates distinguished lectures series and also offers book-writing sponsorship programs for young authors.
All these activities have helped the group secure enormous influence in the city and gain the loyalty of several people.
It is no surprise then that a local court has found it difficult to find jurors to sit on a panel that will watch over a graft trial involving the Kwok brothers.
The Sun Hung Kai chiefs are accused of providing millions of dollars worth of cash and other inducements to Rafael Hui, a former chief secretary of Hong Kong, in return for some favors.
During a jury selection process, several members of a 150-strong pool gave various excuses to opt out of the duty, prompting a judge to say that the trial could stretch until October.
The excuses of people for not wanting to be part of the jury had ranged from travel plans to caring for newborns to attending the World Cup football matches in Brazil.
After a nine-member jury was eventually put in place, one of the members failed to turn up on Monday, forcing the judge to adjourn the trial.
When the proceedings resume eventually, we may probably see a different side of the story of what could be the largest public-private corruption case in Hong Kong.
Disclosure: Although bearing the same surname, this writer is in no way related to the famous Kwok family. However, he lives in an apartment built by Sun Hung Kai, owns some Smartone shares and was a high school junior of the disgraced Hui.
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