August 1, 2021

Hong Kong billionaires in Beijing’s sights

“The tycoons have their backs rounded. We hear them even less than usual… ”, observes, amused, influential political commentator Chip Tsao. In Hong Kong, we use the word “tycoon” (from the Japanese taikun, “Grand prince”) to designate the very best of the ultrariches of the special administrative region. They control almost every sector of the economy. Despite their great discretion in the current crisis, Beijing ended up pointing the finger at them, suggesting that it was, basically, because of them and the exorbitant real estate prices under their control, that the Hong Kong people are revolted. . In an official commentary published in mid-September by the very powerful Chinese Political and Legal Affairs Committee, it read: “In the current chaos in Hong Kong, many young people have turned their dissatisfaction and anger towards the government, but it should be noted that they are probably on the wrong target. “

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In the absence of a political solution, the state-party having no intention of giving in to democratic demands, China would like to read the events in Hong Kong as a social crisis, especially a housing crisis, in the city where the square meter is the most expensive in the world. And if there are any culprits on this subject, it is the big real estate developers, equivalent to the landowner that the single party has historically fought against in China. In Hong Kong, four dynastic conglomerates (the Kwok family with the Sun Hung Kai group, that of Li Ka-shing with CK Hutchinson, the Henderson group of Lee Shau-kee and the New World empire of the Cheng family) share the essential of residential and commercial real estate, when half of Hong Kong people do not own.

This handful of billionaires must now navigate between a Chinese press attacking companies that do not come forward – such as the Cathay Pacific company – and young protesters themselves, now quick to boycott or vandalize any sign they deem pro Beijing.

“Masters of the future”

It is Li Ka-shing, 91, the most iconic and the richest (about 30 billion dollars, 27 billion euros) of them, who has recently come under Beijing’s wrath. Having fled communism and found refuge in Hong Kong in the 1950s, Li Ka-shing has established himself as one of the most powerful businessmen in the world. The message to the Hong Kongers that he published in a series of full pages in the press in mid-August had been conspicuous by its ambiguity. He said in English that “The best intentions can lead to the worst result”, one could see a condemnation of the violent drift of the demonstrations or a reference to the extradition bill put forward by the chief executive, Carrie Lam. For the Chinese version, he had chosen a most obscure proverb: “The Huantai melon can no longer be picked. “

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