Hong Kong’s corporate elite have come off the sidelines to oppose the violent protests that have disrupted businesses in the city and slashed billions of dollars off their market value.
In full- and half-page newspaper advertisements Wednesday and Thursday, conglomerates including those founded by 91-year-old Li Ka-shing, the city’s richest person, and Henry Cheng, who runs a property-to-jewelry empire, called for restoring order and rule of law. Some supported the city’s Beijing-backed authorities in their efforts to quell the unrest.
“Save the economy, safeguard livelihood,” said the advertisement by Cheng’s New World Development, which has been tapped to build a HK$20 billion shopping-and-entertainment complex at Hong Kong’s International Airport.
Li’s CK Group ad urged readers to: “Rebuild a harmonious society.”
The notice by Henderson Land Development, one of the city’s largest developers, asked: “Would a collapsed Hong Kong benefit you or your family?”
At least seven companies placed ads after demonstrations now into their 11th week partially paralyzed Asia’s financial hub. All of the firms were among the 10 worst performers on the benchmark Hang Seng Index over the past month.
Since July 19, at least $29 billion in market value has been wiped off the five flagship companies of CK Group, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson and New World, which runs Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group. Tycoons with companies trading in Hong Kong have also absorbed losses, with the 10 wealthiest seeing their wealth drop by about $28 billion combined since the unrest began, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index.
Hui Ka Yan, founder of property developer China Evergrande Group, has seen his fortune drop by $4.5 billion to $29.6 billion. The wealth of CK’s Li has dipped $3.9 billion to $30.6 billion, the index shows.
Land and casino billionaire Lui Che-woo took out full-page advertisements Thursday in major local newspapers, praising China’s rise and its support of Hong Kong, urging young protesters to calm down and calling on the government to solve deep-rooted social problems such as unaffordable housing.
“I am especially saddened and find it hard to bear,” said Lui, founder of casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group and property developer K Wah International Holdings. “We are all of the same root and the same vein. I urge the government and all sectors to express goodwill and communicate rationally.”
Demonstrators who initially marched to oppose the now-shelved bill that would’ve allowed extradition to the mainland have added demands including investigation of police behavior during the protests and the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Some clashes with protesters have lead police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets. Earlier this week, protesters disrupted travel at Asia’s busiest airport by demonstrating within the hub.
Chinese officials have said the protesters “acted like terrorists” in swarming the airport, stoking concern that Beijing may mobilize troops or take other actions against protesters. In recent days, the demonstrators beat and detained two individuals they called infiltrators.
Other groups that placed the ads include Swire Pacific, the parent of the city’s flagship air carrier Cathay Pacific Airways. In a separate statement Tuesday, Swire said it “resolutely” supports the efforts of Hong Kong’s government and police to restore law and order. Sino Land Company placed a newspaper ad as well.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.