Tycoon is perhaps the word most commonly associated with Li Ka-shing, one of Hong Kong’s most influential and successful businessmen. But philanthropist always follows. The former chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings, who retired in May two months before turning 90 (but continues his service in the role of senior adviser), has pledged one third of his wealth to philanthropic projects.
At his company’s annual general meeting in March, where he announced his retirement as chairman to dedicate more time to philanthropy, the spry businessman said, “Looking back all these years, it’s my honour to have founded Cheung Kong and to have served society,” giving his charitable endeavours as much regard as his commercial achievements.
Giving back has always been important to Li, in part due to his humble beginnings. Born in 1928 in Chaozhou, Guangdong, Li fled with his family to Hong Kong in 1940 following the Japanese invasion. As a teenager, he found himself sweeping floors in a factory and looking after his father, who was dying of tuberculosis. Things were not easy. But Li had determination and worked his way up to make his first fortune manufacturing plastic flowers. From there came property, as he was forced to purchase his factory when its lease was not offered for renewal. By the 1970s Li had become one of the city’s leading property developers, and his investments didn’t end there. He took over Hutchison Whampoa in 1979, beco