(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s long-time partner Solina Chau called on “governments” to listen to more voices to avoid making poor policy decisions in a fast-changing world.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday after a conference in Hong Kong, Chau, 62, said there’s a need for “counter proposals to power” and “counter-factual thinking.”
“If you get stuck by normalcy bias and bad policies in an ever-changing world, it will cost you very dearly,” she said, while not referring specifically to Hong Kong. The comments mark a rare insight into the thinking of key members of the inner circle of the city’s richest man, to whom Chau referred to frequently in her briefing to reporters.
They come days before the finance hub holds its first city-wide election since revamping its electoral system to effectively ban pro-democracy candidates from standing.
Asked whether she was voting, Chau said: “I don’t think I have received a voting card yet.”
The once-vibrant city is faced with a raft of challenges, including deep deficits, slumping stock and real estate markets and the emigration of tens of thousands as pandemic curbs and national security laws restricted activities. Part of the crackdown also included limiting the influence of tycoon’s such as the 95-year-old Li in picking the city’s leader and legislators.
Hong Kong is struggling to retain its status as global financial hub as China tightens its political grip and a slowdown in deals causes banks to make deep cuts in jobs in the city.
“International investors are still confused, and having reservations about Hong Kong indeed,” she said. “It’s very natural. We are cautious about our own matters, too, right?”
Chau, who co-founded Li’s venture investment arm, said that people shouldn’t be too pessimistic and that living happily and well is the best “publicity for Hong Kong,” adding that it’s “the government’s responsibility to do everything possible to let the people live well and happily.”
The city’s leader, former policeman John Lee, this week warned that even criticizing government policies on housing and the economy could be a form of “soft resistance.”
More than 270 individuals have been arrested by national security police, while dozens including pro-democracy activists and former opposition lawmakers are facing charges under the law which carries a sentence as life-long imprisonment.
Li in 2020 backed the security law imposed by Beijing on the city, while in 2019 he called on the government to show mercy on young people who were protesting.
Victor Li, the tycoon’s son, on Friday urged people to vote in this weekend’s district council vote.
Chau also called on the government to broaden its support for innovation, beyond the popular industries such as artificial intelligence and chips.
Li is closely watching the markets but that it’s meaningless to discuss short-term movements, she said.
“It’s not easy traversing this particular economic malaise,” Chau said.
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