To many Chinese billionaires, the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong right next door to Two International Finance Center on the Central waterfront is without doubt their favorite place to stay.
Since its inauguration a decade ago, the hotel has hosted many celebrities and moguls.
Nowadays, it’s home to a surprising number of business tycoons trying to escape the anti-corruption heat in the mainland.
China’s stepped-up graft-busting campaign has nailed numerous communist cadres and their business cohorts.
A middle-aged factory owner, surnamed Zhang, has been staying at the Four Seasons for more than six months.
Tencent Finance reports that he boarded a night flight to Hong Kong the day he heard the vice mayor of his hometown had been detained. The businessman supposedly has links to the politician.
Many of his wealthy compatriots who have put themselves up in the luxury hotel have similar experiences.
They are very rich and influential, with strong ties to local authorities. Some fled to Hong Kong in a hurry after their political allies fell.
Their numbers have been increasing in tandem with their personal secrecy but their high-flying lifestyles have not changed.
You’re likely to find them dining in a private lounge or in Michelin-starred restaurants or sunbathing near the open-air swimming pool overlooking Victoria Harbor.
When they meet, they would ask each other: “How is your case now?”
Apparently, Zhang has no idea how long he is going to stay there.
Some said they will return to the mainland when the coast is clear or promised help by a senior official. Others are thinking of casting further afield, perhaps to Australia or the United States.
For now, Four Seasons is home. But why Four Seasons?
First, is the sense of “belonging” or comradeship, if you like, in being in the same place with people under similar circumstances.
Then, there is the support they can give each other by sharing what they know about things at home.
Finally, there’s the chance to engage in a little social networking. After all, they’re all corporate movers and shakers.
It helps that the hotel is within striking distance of high-end shops in Central and Admiralty. And they don’t mind its six-star amenities — virtually all guest rooms have panoramic views of Victoria Harbor and Kowloon Peninsula.
Macau is a short hop to the ferry terminal where they can hire a helicopter for day trips to the gambling enclave.
Obviously, none of this comes cheap.
A night’s stay in a Four Seasons suite costs HK$10,000 (US$1,290) to HK$70,000. Serviced apartments in the twin-tower complex charge HK$50,000 to HK$200,000 a month.
Still, entire floors have been booked by individual guests, ostensibly for privacy, and to house their entourage.
Southern People Weekly reports that Wu Changjiang, founder of NVC Lighting (02222.HK), lived in the hotel for several months in 2012 after a senior official in Chongqing, NVC’s home base, was arrested by anti-corruption investigators.
In another case, senior managers of Beida Jade Bird Group, a tech conglomerate owned by Peking University, have been staying in the hotel since March after the group’s chief became entangled in a case involving China Resources Holdings chairman Song Lin and another involving Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party.
Interestingly, those from the same province or industry tend to stay together.
When protesters took to the streets in resource-rich Shanxi province and local officials were rounded up and jailed, many coal mine owners fled to Hong Kong and checked into the Four Seasons.
Jiangxi provincial party chief Su Rong was the latest senior bureaucrat to fall when he was sacked in June. Since then, a number of Jiangxi businessmen have come calling.
Why Hong Kong?
The first reason is its legal system which is vastly different from that in the mainland. That means a person considered a criminal or suspect in the mainland has a clean slate in Hong Kong.
Also, Hong Kong has no extradition treaty with Beijing. If a mainlander has the right of abode in Hong Kong, he or she will be treated differently by mainland authorities, according to a legal expert from Beijing Normal University.
Then there’s convenience. From Hong Kong, these business tycoons can check up on the day-to-day running of their business. They can have senior executives, secretaries and virtually everybody else over if necessary.
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