Home is where the heart is for Li Ka-shing

September 30, 2015 12:09
Li Ka-shing says he was pained by the 'false accusations' in mainland media. Photo: HKEJ

Li Ka-shing has finally responded to what has been called a “Cultural Revolution-style” attack by official media in the mainland that he described as “sending shivers down the spine and making one feel deeply regretful”.

Hong Kong's richest man issued a 1,700-word statement 17 days after an online article Sept. 12 by Liaowang, a think tank backed by the official Xinhua News Agency, famously titled “Don’t let Li Ka-shing run away”.

The article, which was scrubbed from its website within hours, accused the 87-year-old tycoon of withdrawing his assets from China despite the fact that he owed his success to state support.

The sentiment was escalated somewhat by an article Sept. 22 in the People’s Daily, the chief mouthpiece of the Communist Party, that said Li will “regret” leaving, because China will get stronger and better.

Not wanting to steal the limelight from President Xi Jinping during his state visit to the United States, Li lay low.

Then in his statement Tuesday, Li quoted Xi favorably six times, stressing that their interests are aligned.

Li said: “Our group has always been on the lookout globally for investment opportunities and support innovations.

"We will continue to invest in ports, infrastructure, retail, technology and financial opportunities.

The "'one belt, one road' development strategy as outlined by President Xi encourages companies to broaden investments outside China".

Since the 1980s, Hutchison has been active in seizing global investment opportunities and now operates in 52 countries.

His tone went from strong to soft, citing hard data (over 70 percent of Hong Kong-listed companies, including state-owned enterprises, are registered in the British Virgin Islands) at the beginning before ending with an affirmation of his love for China.

"Growing up amid the turmoil of war," Li said, "the great tug of war with destiny and the taste of poverty are memories hard to forget."

He said the phenomenal growth of China enables us to "build a wonderful world for everyone, for generations to live with dignity, freedom and happiness in our beautiful and beloved country".

Although the "false accusations" pained him, Li said, he could always find solace in the words of great poets.

He quoted Su Shi, a leading poet in the Song dynasty, who wrote, “Home is where the heart dwells”, and another leading poet, Bai Juyi in the Tang dynasty, who wrote, “Home is where one’s heart can find peace”.

Local papers, including Apple Daily, noted that the two poets wrote these words while they were in exile when they were no longer the darlings of the regime.

Whatever the modern interpretation is, Li made a convincing case that he has put his money where his mouth is.

The Li Ka Shing Foundation, which he considers his third son, with US$9 billion in assets, has given away HK$17 billion (US$2.19 billion), of which 87 percent went to projects in Greater China.

Why Beijing should let Li Ka-shing run away even further (Sept. 29, 2015)

Beijing emerges badly from its censure of tycoon (Sept. 24, 2015)

Why Li Ka-shing shouldn’t get distracted by China criticism (Sept. 22, 2015)

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EJ Insight writer