Twilight of HK’s geronto-oligarchs


Some participants in the 2016 Celebrity Deathwatch Sweepstakes must be doing well: David Bowie, George Martin, Prince, Morley Safer and Muhammad Ali have all departed, and it’s not even mid-year.

MuhammadAliIs Asia now due a visit from the grim reaper? Names on the list include the ever-ailing King Bhumibol and former Mainland tyrants like Li Peng and Jiang Zemin. Here in Hong Hong, there’s a whole array of aging property tycoons for whom the clock is surely ticking. Hutchison/Cheung Kong’s Li Ka-shing, Henderson Land’s Lee Shau-kee, New World’s Cheng Yu-tong and Sun Hung Kai matriarch Kwong Siu-hing are all in their late 80s or even 90s. (First to go – assuming he hasn’t already and squabbling kids are pulling a cadaver-stashed in-attic stunt – must be casino mogul Stanly Ho.)

Over at the South China Morning Post, iconoclastic business columnist Peter Guy skewers the founders of Hong Kong’s real-estate cartel-oligarchy, identifying them as the cause of many of the city’s social and economic ills. This view is apparently increasingly shared by the Chinese Communist regime, which perhaps now realizes that this local ‘elite’ it co-opted back in the 1980s play a mainly parasitical and destabilizing role.

This older generation were wily, opportunistic, fortunate in timing, and able to exploit shoe-shining, string-pulling and dirtier ways to influence the government, create monopolies and rip off a whole society and economy. Their offspring, waiting in the wings (or, as with some older ones, already in charge), have no advantages whatsoever. As individuals, they are supercilious, have an overweening sense of entitlement, and possess little or no imagination or intellect generally. Yet their little universe in and around Hong Kong’s domestic economy is becoming a hostile environment. In essence, says Peter Guy, they are toast.

Not so long ago, the SCMP was of course owned by another of our old-guard plutocrats – Robert SCMP-HowWillKuok (who, we may note, is in his 90s). For many years, readers would rarely if ever see a column seriously critical of our local feudal overlords’ blood-sucking ways; their empires were valued advertisers, and they were not above threats of legal action. Now the newspaper is owned by a younger/Mainland tycoon in step with Beijing’s current thinking, so we can get columns like this (and this one). The medium is the message.

I declare the weekend open with a viewing suggestion: late-80s documentary on the US civil rights movement Eyes on the Prize. The first half-dozen or so episodes cover the main story. Anyone seeking inspiration or lessons for Hong Kong, perhaps with the recent Lancome case in mind, should pay special attention to how consumer boycotts can inflict economic pain and force change.


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12 Responses to Twilight of HK’s geronto-oligarchs

  1. The last line was informative at least today.

    The problem is that Hong King people will never sacrifice a cent for cleaner air, more representation or anything else.

    That is a sad fact.

    Stare it in the face. Like old age, you just have to accept it. And move on.

  2. Des Espoir says:

    I agree – it really is about time someone checked Pansy Ho’s freezer….

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    I heard Ho’s body was shipped up to Shanghai Disneyland for cryogenic freezing and storage along with Uncle Walt.

  4. Paul says:

    Interestingly though, Peter Guy’s article doesn’t seem to have made it to the print edition, which presumably is what these tycoons and their heirs read (if they read the SCMP at all).

  5. Probably says:

    Apparently Stanley Ho has been ‘holed’ up in the Happy Valley Sanatorium of late. So ‘probably’ all bets off.

  6. WTF says:

    rent collection doesn’t require brights, just enough intelligence to not screw up the trust agreement. Anyone really think the Koch Brothers or Addelson are bright?

    Even the mediocre scum are going to ride this out. Donald the Duck Tsang is going to die of old age before charges are brought, same with Lufsig. The official squatting on government land for 30 years might have to pay to tear down his house, but what are the odds anyone will ask him for back rent and taxes on a developed property basis? It is to laugh.

  7. PD says:

    In other news, likely to upset the diehard, Steven Vines has come round to the view of former then-“R”TP, as he then was, of better the devil you know:

  8. reductio says:

    Excellent viewing suggestion. Going to be an “Eyes on the prize” weekend. Mose Wright – man, THAT took some balls.

  9. Monkey the Unborn says:

    What a dirty, dirty, dirty trick Mr. Hemlock … consumer boycotts? Economic empowerment and enlightenment of the masses?

    Long live Chairman Hemlock, leader of the new proletarian evolution!

  10. Jason90 says:

    @Paul – I couldn’t find Peter Guy’s column in the print edition either.
    The real question is what he’s doing in the SCMP telling it like it is?
    Hemlock has previously commented that the Business Section has a commercial interest in being serious…

  11. Mary Melville says:

    You omitted the very low key King of NT, Lau Wong Fat, with 700+ properties and sites to his name and a son who is obviously nowhere as wily.
    As he is still drawing a handsome monthly salary from Legco despite being a no show since October, are we to presume that he is being kept in the freezer there to be wheeled out if his vote is required?

  12. WTF says:

    Had to think about HK and this article after reading the first chapter of “Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy” by Robert Frank.

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