Li Ka-shing to vote for candidate who can work with Beijing

HONG Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing, said that he would cast his vote at this Sunday's chief executive election for the candidate who has both Beijing's support and a deep understanding of Hong Kong, but stopped short of endorsing one of the three contenders by name.

The 88-year-old chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings, which has around 10 votes in the 1,194-strong Election Committee that will help pick Hong Kong's next leader, was speaking at his company's annual results announcement on Wednesday.

He said that he "put the ability to co-operate with the mainland government in a very important place", and that he would "fully support the chief executive who has a deep understanding and knowledge of Hong Kong".

The committee, which is largely pro-establishment, will pick by secret ballot between former city finance chief John Tsang, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing and former chief secretary Carrie Lam who is widely perceived as Beijing's favoured choice.

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The Chinese central government will have the final say on who is ultimately appointed as Hong Kong's next chief executive regardless of the election results.

"My personal view is that in Hong Kong's current environment, we absolutely need a chief executive who can communicate with the central government and increase the cooperative relationship," Mr Li told reporters, noting that Beijing also wants Hong Kong to do well. "If the chief executive has a better working relationship and co-operation with the central government, it will create miracles for Hong Kong. It will reduce a lot of unnecessary disputes."

The Hong Kong billionaire declined to name his pick, telling reporters that all three candidates are his friends and that he did not want to say anything that could be detrimental to any of them.

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He also dismissed questions about how he and his sons Victor, 52, and Richard, 50, both of whom also sit on the Election Committee, might be coordinating their votes.

"Do you still listen to your dad when you reach 50? If you think we make plans like that, then your assessment of me is too low," he said.

The older Mr Li's comments came just days after his Mr Richard Li openly endorsed Mrs Lam for the top job in the wake of speculation that the family might be throwing their weight behind Mr Tsang, who has been leading popularity polls.

Mr Li backed eventual 2002 and 2007 chief executive election winners Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang, but in 2012 endorsed Henry Tang who ended up losing to current leader Leung Chun-ying.

This article was first published on Mar 23, 2017.
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