Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Li Ka-Shing

The story of Hong Kong's elusive billionaire, Li Ka-Shing, is the story of the rise of modern Hong Kong itself, and the continuing saga of the colony's complex relationship with China.

Author Anthony B. Chan weaves the history of the development of Hong Kong with a biography of Li Ka-Shing, born in 1928 to an impoverished family in the northern Guangdong city of Chaoshou. Li's family fled from Japanese invasions to settle in Hong Kong where Li's father died, leaving him to fend for himself at 15.

As Hong Kong flourished, so did Li, who worked at menial jobs until he founded a company that made plastic flowers. By 1958, Li was the "king of Plastic Flowers" with assets of HK $1-million. By 1979, Li was the biggest private landlord in Hong Kong-only the colonial government owned more real estate. That same year, Li became the first Chinese to gain control of one of the power western hongs, established in early days of colonialism.

In the heady days of the 1980s, Li began to invest abroad, teaming up with Beijing's main property development firm. And, he brought his songs, Victor and Richard, into Canadian deals that included the purchase of Husky Oil and the Expo '86 Lands in Vancouver. Li became one of the biggest shareholders in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Today, Li Ka-Shing is an influential member of the Chinese appointed Preparatory Committee, which will set the stage for the governance of Hong Kong after July 1, 1997. Now known as "Mr. Money", he is one of Hong Kong's richest men, worth about $10.6-billion.

Chan has written a vivid portrait of a man whose ultimate triumph may still lie ahead as Hong Kong, China heads into the twenty-first century.

In 2008, Alpha Books in Hanoi Vietnam will publish the book in Vietnamese.

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