Hong Kong’s richest man gives millions to businesses hurt by protests

Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing is giving one billion Hong Kong dollars ($128 million) to businesses hurt by the city’s pro-democracy protests.

The 91-year-old billionaire said he hopes the donation will “take the lead” in helping small and medium-sized companies through tough times, according to a statement released Friday by his charitable foundation.

“The global economy is slowing. Plus, Hong Kong’s economy is facing unprecedented challenges,” the foundation said in its statement.

Ka-shing’s donation is meant to supplement recently announced government measures to allocate two billion Hong Kong dollars ($255 million) to support small companies. In total, the government is pumping billions of dollars into the economy in a bid to avert a recession as the political crisis disrupts business, particularly in retail and other services. The faltering economy is also suffering from China’s slowdown and the trade war.

Further details about how the foundation’s money will be used is pending discussions with the government.

Li and other real estate tycoons are facing pressure from China over the protests. State-run media organizations have criticized the city’s property developers and blamed them for rising home prices.

Spiking home prices are “the cause of the disease of Hong Kong’s social turmoil,” state-owned Xinhua News Agency wrote in a commentary published last month.

Xinhua called on the city to take back land from developers and offer more affordable housing as a way of appeasing public anger.

“It’s time for the Hong Kong developers to show their uttermost goodwill,” wrote the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper, in a separate commentary last month. The article urged Hong Kong developers to give their undeveloped land to the government.

“This is the only way to be responsible for Hong Kong’s future, to ‘give young people a way out,'” the paper said, in a thinly-veiled dig at a phrase Li used during a speech in early September. Li at that time said he hoped that “those in power” could give young people “a way out” of the political turmoil.

One other developer, New World Development, recently said it would donate up to 3 million square feet from its land reserves for public housing.