25 October 2016
Li Ka-shing, Peter Woo and Lui Che-woo are among the tycoons who are calling for the government's political reform bill to be passed by Hong Kong's lawmakers. Photos: HKEJ
Li Ka-shing, Peter Woo and Lui Che-woo are among the tycoons who are calling for the government's political reform bill to be passed by Hong Kong's lawmakers. Photos: HKEJ

What tycoons are saying as the Legco vote draws near

Immeasurable losses! Endless internal friction! An end to the stock market rally!

All that could be the outcome if Hong Kong’s political reform bill fails to get passed in the legislature later this month, according to the city’s top tycoon.

Li Ka-shing, chairman of the Hutchison and Cheung Kong group of companies, has delivered a stark warning as pan-democrats have vowed to block the controversial universal suffrage plan.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday as his new property flagship CK Property made its stock trading debut, Li said there won’t be any winners if the bill related to the chief executive election is vetoed.

“Everyone will be a loser. You and me will be victims,” the tycoon told a gathering at the Cheung Kong Centre.

CK Property began trading on the Hong Kong bourse Wednesday, posting strong initial gains, with the listing marking a culmination of Li’s group restructuring exercise.

Li said the damage to Hong Kong would be immeasurable if political stalemate continues in the city.

However, he admitted that his group itself will not suffer much as its assets are spread widely across the globe following a series of overseas investments over the years.

Li’s comments came after some fellow tycoons spoke up yesterday in support of the Beijing version of constitutional reform, which will be put to a Legco vote on June 17.

As of now, the chance of the bill getting passed is slim, as opposition lawmakers have insisted that they will veto the “fake universal suffrage” proposal.

With the stakes rising, Hong Kong’s elites are stepping forward to pledge their loyalty to Beijing and warn about, if not overstate, the potential fallout of a negative Legco vote.

They all chipped in, using different ways to repeat the same message.

Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee, the local version of Warren Buffett, for instance, used an annual shareholders’ meeting to send out advice to lawmakers.

“Pocket first is better than no pocket,” said Lee, urging the pan-democrats to accept the current version for now and possibly seek improvements later.

Lee says the Hang Seng Index will rise to the 30,000-points mark if the political reform plan is passed. If the bill gets blocked, the market will fluctuate before entering a dull phase, he warned.

Well, he has made a clever point as no Hongkonger would like to see the market rally get stalled.

As for tycoon Lui Chee-woo, who was ranked as high as No. 2 in Hong Kong’s rich list when his Galaxy Entertainment Group shares hit a peak of HK$80 last year, he has stressed on the core value of harmony, the cornerstone of prosperity in Chinese culture.

In a press release, Lui, who is also the chairman of K Wah International, said Hong Kong people should prioritize economic prosperity over political quarrels. In making his argument, Lui drew reference to other countries where political strife has often resulted in economic stagnation.

Among other businessmen, Peter Woo Kwong-ching, who stepped down as chairman of Wharf Holdings last month, has urged “non-radical” legislators to stand on the side of public wisdom and support the government proposal.

He also jumped in the “deer” (true universal suffrage) versus “horse” (fake universal suffrage) debate by stating that universal suffrage had always been endorsed under the Beijing mission.

Although not a tycoon, Nam Fung Group chief executive and former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung made his own point.

More people will be interested in joining the government if the political reform proposal is passed, Leung said.

Speaking at a fundraising dinner of Lingnan University, Leung called for some improvements in executive-legislature relations, a move seen as signaling his aim to run for the top job in 2017.

Let’s now wait and see what will actually happen after the vote two weeks from now.

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EJ Insight writer

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