Telling it like it is: Li Ka-shing offers sage advice to the city

Updated: 2014-03-10 07:34

By Albert Lin (HK Edition)

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Bang! Didn't Li Ka-shing hit the nail on the head the other day when he said that Hong Kong is like a spoilt child. That just about sums up the whiners and whingers who for the past few years have blighted the spirit and verve of our highly progressive and prosperous city; its competitiveness is consistently rated among the highest in the world. Were these moaners children, they might have an excuse for their trouble-making. But the sad fact is that they are adults - but obviously not mature adults.

What a "war-chest" of complaints weighing down their sagging shoulders Let's start with what they see as the cure-all for our problems - universal suffrage, then move down the list to supposedly inept governance, followed by prohibitively high property prices and rents. Next would come ill-mannered mainland tourists, ever-worsening pollution, our impoverished "silver society", baby powder and freedom of the press.

Regularly these nay-sayers trot out their mainly flaky hobby-horses, finding ways to publicise a speech, protest march, rally or whatever.

If they were our children, what would we likely to tell them? I would strongly suggest advising them to "see what's happening in the outside world, count your blessings and make your own contribution!" We need a John F. Kennedy moment, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Li, in his review of what's gone wrong with Hong Kong, expressed the view that "such a situation (as Hong Kong finds itself in today) gives rise to populism. But the important point is that society should find ways to resolve problems and not get stuck in a state of anger."

The billionaire tycoon unhesitatingly blamed politicians for the rise of populism, criticizing the way they stir up and take advantage of social problems as a "platform to get votes and power". But he endorses democracy because it is good for business.

Li often contrasts Hong Kong with its traditional rival, Singapore. He drew more comparisons between the two mega-cities in his recent interview with the online new service caixin.com, pointing out that Singapore has been outpacing Hong Kong in recent years, despite our proximity to the economic powerhouse just over the border.

He said we should follow Singapore's example and increase our investment in innovation and technology. To do otherwise would be to ignore the progress and advantages of other places due to an unnecessarily rigid outlook.

"I think Hong Kong people need a greater sense of urgency," he said. "Although this argument might perhaps seem disquieting, we must have the right attitude about change while moving forward, and not develop a falsely confined mindset because we have lived for such a long time in such a prosperous city."

Meanwhile, when Li was asked to enumerate what universal suffrage in 2017 would mean to society, he cannily replied that his views were very different from those of a young person. "When talking about electoral systems, asking an 85-year-old to define everything for a 17-year-old is a very dangerous move."

He also discounts stories that good luck was the secret of his success. "I wasn't lucky," he says. "I worked hard to achieve the goals I set for myself," - a gentle reminder that nothing good comes easy.

With age has come the sagacity for such insightful views as the following: "The future may be made up of many factors, but where it lies is in the heads and minds of man. Your dedication should not be confined for your own gain, but unleash your passion for our beloved country as well as for the integrity and humanity of mankind."

"We are approaching a new age of synthesis. Knowledge cannot be merely a degree or a skill it demands a broader vision, capabilities in critical thinking and logical deduction without which we cannot have constructive progress ."

The author is the Op-Ed editor of China Daily Hong Kong Edition.

Telling it like it is: Li Ka-shing offers sage advice to the city

(HK Edition 03/10/2014 page1)