Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, has issued front-page ads in several major local newspapers expressing sentiments in favour of love and against violence.

The ad campaign – launched in his capacity as a private citizen on Friday – is the first public response by Li after more than two months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Demonstrators are asking for a complete withdrawal of the city’s controversial extradition bill, as well as universal suffrage and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Li issued two different ads in Chinese – both with very few words – without expressing any explicit support for the government or the protesters. In one ad, a stop sign was placed across the word “violence.”

Li Ka-shing ads on August 16, 2019. Photo: Screenshot.

“The best intentions can bring the worst results,” the ad said. “Cease the anger with love.”

The ad spoke of six loves: “Love China, love Hong Kong, love oneself; love freedom, love empathy, love rule of law.”

A second ad cited a Chinese idiom that stemmed from a historic poem from the Tang Dynasty. The poem referred to the story of Li Xian, son of Empress Wu, who asked her mother not to harm her sons for political power.

Li Ka-shing had used the same idiom during his speech in 2016 at the annual results announcement of Cheung Kong Holdings, when asked about his predictions for the 2017 chief executive election.

Li is the senior advisor of CK Asset Holdings Limited and CK Hutchison Holdings Limited, following his retirement as chairman in 2018.

Li Ka-shing. File

A statement was issued later to explain the ads, in which Li said: “The road to Hell is often paved with good intentions. We need to be mindful of unintended consequences.”

“It is hard to imagine a better world when the community is highly charged. Violence in thoughts and actions is not a mean[s] to accomplish any vision because they misrepresent – peaceful situations can come to feel dangerous, the percolation thereafter will be self-fulfilling,” he said.

“We need to cherish ourselves, our identity as a Chinese and a Hong Kong citizen, just as we treasure freedom, empathy and rule of law.”

Photo: May James/HKFP.

The rest of the statement took the format of a Q&A with a spokesperson.

One question asked what Li’s views were on the government: “I think the government heard the messages from the protesters loud and clear and is diligently racking their brains now for solutions,” Li’s statement said.

Another question asked what his views were on young people today.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

“The young always fear the future has nothing to do with them. Investing in our next generation will always bear fruit for our city. Investing in the future matters,” Li’s statement said.

“The time and space offered by ‘one country two systems’ must be safeguarded by mutual deference. Time is an endless river in constant flux, but we cannot step in the river twice, pray we never let today’s passion becomes tomorrow’s regret,” it added.

Several protests are planned for the weekend, though most have been banned by police.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.