- SCMP/K.Y. Cheng
Tycoon Li Ka-shing has called on those in power to show humanity and provide a way out for young people in Hong Kong’s protest crisis, describing them as the “masters of our future” who also needed to consider the city’s overall interests.
Speaking publicly for the first time about the worsening civil unrest, the 91-year-old billionaire said on Sunday evening that justice might have to be tempered with mercy on political issues.
Li was greeting participants during a religious gathering where 1,000 Buddhists assembled at Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po to pray for Hong Kong.
He took out advertisements in some local newspapers last month, calling for an end to the violence.
Li touched on the unrest again on Sunday. The billionaire described the situation as “the worst blow dealt to Hong Kong except the second world war”.
“We hope Hong Kong will be able to ride out the storm,” he said. “We hope the young people can take the big picture into consideration. For those at the helm, we hope they can give the masters of our future a way out.
“Although [showing] humanity may sometimes collide with the rule of law, in political issues, both sides should try to put their feet in another’s shoes, then many of the big troubles can be reduced into small ones,” Li said.
It was unclear if Li was calling on the government to declare an amnesty for those arrested during demonstrations, a key demand of protesters.
A spokesman for the monastery said: “Mr Li feels worried about the escalating violence in society and that its impacts on the rule of law in Hong Kong are unacceptable.
“He believes that to keep society in harmony, people should treat others as they would themselves. He hopes we can overcome the difficulty and all sides can work towards the benefit of all for the sake of Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong has been gripped by protests triggered by the now-shelved extradition bill since June, with violent clashes between radical demonstrators and police escalating.
Outbreaks of violence during demonstrations as well as vandalism of MTR stations are a common occurrence.
Last month, the city’s business leaders went public, one by one, to condemn the chaos and violence triggered by the anti-government protests.
Li took out advertisements in some of the city’s newspapers. Two full-page statements – one in colour and the other in black and white – were signed by “Hong Kong resident Li Ka-shing”.
The colour one was more straightforward, dominated by the Chinese character for “violence” with a cross through it, flanked by slogans about loving China and loving Hong Kong. At the bottom, it said “stop anger and violence in the name of love”.
But the advert had an interesting header that said “the best of intentions can lead to the worst outcome”. It did not specify what “the best of intentions” referred to.
The black-and-white statement was minimalist in style. Apart from the header and signature, it contained only eight Chinese characters, which literally translated as: “The melon of Huangtai cannot bear the picking again.”
It meant that something had suffered so much that further attack would ruin it.
The ambiguous wording of his adverts sparked speculation that he was trying to walk a tightrope, attempting not to side too much with the Hong Kong government, Beijing or the protesters.
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