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Hong Kong tycoon backs Tang for chief executive

17 march 2012, 12:40
Hong Kong chief executive candidate and former Hong Kong chief secretary Henry Tang. ©AFP
Hong Kong chief executive candidate and former Hong Kong chief secretary Henry Tang. ©AFP
Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, on Friday voiced his support for scandal-plagued candidate Henry Tang to become Hong Kong's next leader in this month's "small circle" elections, AFP reports.

The 83-year-old billionaire said he would give his vote to Tang, the southern Chinese city's former Number Two, whose campaign has been marred by controversies that have embarrassed some of his other wealthy backers.

"Henry Tang has experience and has served in the government. It is good for Hong Kong if he is elected," the Hong Kong tycoon, known locally as "Superman" because of his business acumen, said in a statement.

Li denied media reports that his two conglomerates, Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa, would divest some of their Hong Kong assets should Tang's main rival, Leung Chun-ying, win the March 25 poll.

"I love Hong Kong," said the businessman who was named Asia's richest man by Forbes magazine last week with an estimated wealth of $25.5 billion.

Li's open backing, while not unexpected, is a boost to Tang's flagging fortunes and could help shore up wavering support among the small group of business and professional elites who have the right to vote.

The chief executive election will be held in the form of a vote by a 1,200-member electoral committee packed with pro-Beijing delegates including Li and his eldest son, Victor.

Tang was believed to have the support of the city's business establishment and the central government in Beijing, until his repeated gaffes made him deeply unpopular with the general public.

He began his campaign with a public admission of marital infidelity, repeatedly refused to debate his opponents or release details of his proposals, and blamed his wife for making unauthorised improvements to his luxury home.

Leung, a former government adviser, consistently ranks ahead of Tang in public opinion polls but is reportedly regarded as an unreliable liberal by business leaders.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control from British rule in 1997, with a semi-autonomous status that guarantees broad social freedoms under limited democracy.

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