23 February 2019
The seating plan follows rigid protocol. Tung Chee-hwa gets pride of place as delegation head. Other members of the delegation are shown below. Photo: HKEJ, CCTV
The seating plan follows rigid protocol. Tung Chee-hwa gets pride of place as delegation head. Other members of the delegation are shown below. Photo: HKEJ, CCTV

A bevy of tycoons: Guess who’s squirming in their seats?

The seating plan says it all and the body language is even more telling.

Here, China’s rigid communist protocol is cleanly laid out for all to see. It’s a delicate art in which what is said is sometimes less important than what isn’t, but what you see is often what you get.

Look at the picture above and make your own conclusions.

The rest of the images were taken during a visit to Beijing by a high-powered Hong Kong business delegation.   

Former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, the delegation head, is seated immediately to the right of President Xi Jinping.

Next comes Li Ka-shing, who was greeted by the top Chinese leader, a long-time acquaintance in Xiamen where Cheung Kong (Holdings) made investments in the 1990s when Xi was a vice mayor there.

There’s Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee to the left of Kerry Group chairman Robert Kuok and Wharf Holdings chairman Peter Woo next to him. All are big Hong Kong landlords.

Then there’s K Wah Group chairman Lui Che-woo, whose Macau flagship Galaxy Entertainment made him Hong Kong’s second richest man before a recent collapse of Macau gaming stock prices.

Next to him is New World Development chairman Henry Cheng, followed by Bank of East Asia chairman David Li and Sing Tao News Corp. chairman Charles Ho and Sino Land chairman Robert Ng.

As we said, there is nothing more telling than this seating arrangement because in Beijing, who sits where is a study in political science.

We can assume it’s not according to age because if it were the case, the seating plan would have started with Kuok (91), followed by Lee and Li (both 86 but Uncle 4 is actually older than Superman) and Lui (85). Next would be Tung (77), David Li (75), Woo and Cheng (both 68, but Woo is older than Cheng), and Ho (65).

Ng (62) is the youngest and the only non-senior citizen in the group of 10 whose average age is 76.

Neither is the list based on the Fobes list, in which case the line-up would have been Li Ka-shing (US$32.8 billion), Lee (US$23 billion) and Lui (US$18.4 billion).

Next would be Cheng (US$13.8 billion), Ng (including his Singapore brother Philip, US$12.8 billion), Kuok (US$11.2 billion) and the Woo (US$8.2 billion).

(Apologies to Ho and the rest. We are sure the list would have been different if all net worth was accounted for.)

Among the tycoons with media assets is Kuok, who has owned the South China Morning Post for the past 20 years, and Woo (whose Cable TV made some embarrassing headlines with a certain disgruntled and dangerous subscriber), and Ho who owns Sing Tao News Corp.

(Apologies to KS Li for not specifically mentioning his Metro Broadcast here.)

Unlike Ho, whose Sing Tao splashed on the tycoon delegation, SCMP ran a low-profile story about its owner. In fact, the photo caption of the non-front-page story had Lui listed as the front-row tycoon who met with President Xi and ended with Li and Tung.

The Post front-page story is politically incorrect: “Thousands take part in reform protest as student class boycott starts”.

Still, that’s nothing compared to the body language of the powers that be in the picture. Guess who is squirming in their seats?

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To the right of President Xi Jinping is Tung Chee-hwa, followed by Lee Shau-kee and Robert Kuok. Photo: CCTV

Peter Woo is seated to the right of Robert Kuok (not shown), then there’s Lui Che-woo and Henry Cheng. Photo: CCTV

Cheung Kong chairman Li Ka-shing is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two have known each other since the Chinese leader’s days as a vice mayor. Photo: CCTV

Other members of the delegation are seated at the back. Photo: CCTV

EJ Insight writer

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