Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Asia, has fallen victim to attacks by Chinese media who view his selling of assets on the mainland as immoral and ungrateful.
The Hong Kong tycoon, who until recently enjoyed the adulation of media both on the mainland and in Hong Kong for his investing prowess, has been criticized for withdrawing from China via a series of asset sales and domiciling his flagship investment vehicles offshore rather than in Hong Kong.
An article in the People’s Daily attacking Li read: “Li Ka-shing’s choices do appear particularly brazen. In the eyes of ordinary people, we shared comfort and prosperity together in the good times, but when the hard times come he abandons us. This has really left some people speechless.”
As doubts grow over the future prosperity of the Chinese economy, Li’s sales have been interpreted by some as a sign of fading confidence. Local media report that in the past three years he has sold around 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) of assets.
In response to these accusations CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd, one of the most important companies in Li’s empire, released a statement defending his decisions.
“[Xi Jinping] has on many occasions stressed that China will stay committed to the path of reforms and opening up,” it read. “We are vigilant not to let these unfounded allegations escalate to cause investors’ concerns and militate against President Xi’s positive message to the business community and investors at large.”
But state media were not satisfied. Earlier today Global Times published an editorial telling Li that he would just have to accept his “de-deification” on the mainland as he is no longer deemed a patriotic role model but merely a profit-driven businessman.
Li fled war-torn mainland China as a teenager and began his business empire producing plastic flowers. Li enjoyed a long tenure as the richest man in Asia and had been dubbed “superman” by many in China, a nickname that looks likely to be used with dwindling frequency given recent developments.