Late Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung has been praised by a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s top policymaking body for his “combative, never-give-up” spirit, as senior cadres and guests paid tribute to mark what would have been his 100th birthday.
Shi Taifeng, head of the party’s United Front Work Department and member of the Politburo, emphasised the importance of following Fok’s dedication to loving the country and Hong Kong.
He called the businessman a “renowned patriot” and “close friend of the Chinese Communist Party” at an event on Wednesday in Beijing commemorating the centenary of the tycoon’s birth, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The symposium was attended by Wang Huning, chairman of the nation’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Wang, also a standing committee member of the Politburo, welcomed Fok’s relatives ahead of the event, according to Xinhua.
Shi hailed Fok for his confidence in the country, saying: “During the early days of reform and opening-up, many foreign investors remained hesitant. With rock solid confidence in the party and the country, Henry Fok took the lead to invest in the mainland.”
Shi cited unofficial data that the businessman had invested more than 9 billion yuan (US$1.1 billion) in mainland China during the first 25 years of the open-door policy that began in 1978.
“We pay tribute to Mr Fok and we should learn from him for his dedication to loving the country and loving Hong Kong,” said Shi, also a CPPCC vice-chairman.
He hailed Fok for “resisting the pressure from the then British Hong Kong government” and always “keeping close contact with the party” during that time.
Shi called for united efforts to build China into a great modern socialist country and promote the rejuvenation of the nation through a Chinese path to modernisation.
Hui Ching, research director of policy think tank the Hong Kong Zhi Ming Institute, said: “Fok was a pro-establishment businessman. It is natural Beijing would speak highly of him.
“But in a sense, it can also be seen as a gentle reminder to some of the tycoons that they should hold a more combative attitude amid the geopolitical situation nowadays.”
However, Lau Siu-kai, a consultant at Beijing’s semi-official think tank, the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said there was no need to read too much into Shi’s address.
“I would be very surprised if the central government wanted to see more involvement of Hong Kong business leaders in political struggles. They are never good at it. And it is not what they should do either,” Lau said.
“China is now strong enough to confront hostile forces. The central government hopes Hong Kong business leaders will make good use of the city’s unique advantages to help contribute to the country’s modernisation.
“The central government also hopes they will help tell good stories of Hong Kong, hit back at the West’s smear campaign, as well as cooperate with the country and Hong Kong authorities in their work to improve the economy and people’s livelihood,” he said.
Fok had long been regarded as one of the Hong Kong figures with the closest connections to Beijing and a trusted confidant of many Chinese leaders.
Beijing made Fok a vice-chairman of the CPPCC in 1993, putting him in the same league as the country’s most senior leaders. He had served three terms as a vice-chairman.
Fok helped draft the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, and was also a vice-chairman of the Beijing-appointed committee that helped oversee Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.
He died of cancer at the age of 83 in 2006.