Bloomberg News

Hong Kong’s Richest Man, Bankers to Decide City’s Leadership

December 12, 2011

(Adds expansion of committee in 10th paragraph.)

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s wealthiest resident, Li Ka-shing, will help choose the successor to Chief Executive Donald Tsang along with HSBC Holdings Plc banker Peter Wong and actor Stephen Chow.

Li is part of a 1,200-member election committee, chosen by China, professionals and business people, that will pick the city’s new leader in March, according to a government website. He’s joined by Lee Shau Kee, founder of Henderson Land Development Co., Hang Seng Bank Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Margaret Leung and other executives, sparking criticism the panel isn’t representative of a city with Asia’s widest rich- poor gap.

Hong Kong’s next top official inherits a city of 7 million people facing slowing economic growth, surging home prices and a government with record-low approval ratings. Next year’s vote is part of a process that aims to give the former British colony universal suffrage in choosing its top leader in 2017.

“It’s a small-circle election of narrow interests for a committee that’s skewed in favor of those identified with the business and professional groups,” said Ma Ngok, an associate professor in political science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “The general public can’t participate in this, but many issues in discussion will impact their daily lives.”

Guaranteed Seats

Of the 1,200 members, 91 will be representatives from China’s National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top political advisory body. Hong Kong lawmakers are guaranteed seats. The rest comes from district councils, religious groups and industry sectors including real estate and finance. Most of the groups elected their representatives yesterday.

Henry Tang, a former chief secretary, and former government adviser Leung Chun-ying have announced their candidacies to replace Tsang, who steps down in June after running the city for seven years. Tsang’s public support has slumped to record low levels, a poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong shows.

Tang, 59, was financial secretary before becoming Hong Kong’s second-highest ranked official, a career path that mirrored Tsang’s. His father is Tang Hsiang Chien, ranked the 40th-richest person in Hong Kong in 2010 by Forbes Magazine. Peter Wong, chief executive officer for Asia Pacific at HSBC, and Joseph Yam, former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, both said they support Tang’s candidacy.

Leung, the outgoing Asia Pacific chairman of DTZ Group, a property broker that was purchased this month by UGL Ltd., has said Hong Kong’s citizens seek change in how the city is governed. Aged 57, he was a non-official member of the Executive Council, which advises the government on major policy issues.

Political Reform

Of the 237,548 registered voters who pick people for the election committee, about 27.5 percent turned out, according to the Hong Kong government. Results are still been tallied.

Hong Kong last year adopted a political reform package that increased the number of committee members to 1,200 from 800, a move aimed at making elections more democratic.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched to protest inequality and surging housing prices on July 1, the 14th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. Property prices in the city have risen 70 percent since the start of 2009.

Hong Kong’s economy grew 0.1 percent in the three months ended September from the previous period, with inflation, excluding distortions from government subsidies, accelerating to a record 6.4 percent in October. The city has the widest wealth gap in Asia, according to a report by the United Nations in 2008.

Christopher Pratt, chairman of Swire Pacific Ltd.; Lui Che- woo, chairman of Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.; Robert Ng, chairman of Sino Land Co.; Thomas Kwok, joint chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd.; Vincent Lo, chairman of Shui On Land Ltd. and Ronnie Chan, chairman of Hang Lung Properties Ltd., were among those who be part of the election committee, according to the results.

--Editors: Hwee Ann Tan, Stan James

To contact the reporters on this story: Sophie Leung in Hong Kong at sleung59@bloomberg.net; Kelvin Wong in Hong Kong at kwong40@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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