HONG KONG Feb 28 Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing,
one of the wealthiest men in Asia, warned on Friday that planned
protests to shut down Hong Kong's central business district
later this year would damage the Asian financial hub.
Li, who has deep ties to China's ruling Communist Party,
uses his annual news conferences to announce company results and
also, at times, as a platform to espouse controversial
Hong Kong, a former British colony that reverted to Chinese
rule in 1997, enjoys considerable autonomy and broad freedom of
speech as a capitalist hub.
Democracy activists in Hong Kong want reforms that could
culminate in a direct election for the city's leader in 2017.
Li denounced plans by pro-democracy groups to stage Occupy
Central protests to shut down the business district to press
Beijing to allow opposition candidates to run in the 2017 poll.
"It will harm Hong Kong," Li told reporters after announcing
solid 2013 results for his flagship company Cheung Kong
"It will give people a bad impression ... No matter how many
days are involved, each hour will damage Hong Kong. In fact, to
fight for democracy, you don't have to occupy Central in order
to reach that aim."
Dubbed "superman", Li's wealth and connections have made him
a regional power broker.
His comments could stoke public anger over what many
residents see as Beijing's meddling in Hong Kong's affairs and
resentment towards tycoons as the city's wealth gap worsens.
The city's journalists plan further protests at the weekend
to uphold press freedom after an editor of a prominent liberal
newspaper was stabbed and seriously wounded on Wednesday.
Li denounced the attack, saying Hong Kong had to stand by
its longstanding traditions of freedom of expression.
"If Hong Kong doesn't have the rule of law, it has nothing,"
the bespectacled and sprightly Li said. "It will cause great
damage to Hong Kong if it loses media freedoms."