6 January 2020
There's no truth to the rumor that Li Ka-shing plans to give a HK$5,000 cash gift to every adult permanent resident of Hong Kong. Photo: AFP
There's no truth to the rumor that Li Ka-shing plans to give a HK$5,000 cash gift to every adult permanent resident of Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Would Superman bail out Hong Kong people?

April Fools’ Day came three months early this year.?

Rumors that Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing was unveiling another relief fund??this time covering not just small retailers but?all adult residents of the city – went viral on social media on the first day of the year.

Li, who had earlier granted HK$1 billion to some 28,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs affected by the months-long social unrest, was allegedly planning to dish out?HK$5,000 to each adult resident in Hong Kong.

Many people took the rumor?hook, line and sinker. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, they must have thought,?considering that the Liberal Party, following the crushing defeat of the pro-establishment camp in the recent District Council elections, proposed that the government hand HK$10,000 in cash or voucher to each adult permanent resident in the city as a way of stimulating local consumption and business activity in these troubled times.

Unfortunately, the HK$5,000 giveaway turned out to be fake news.

It was quickly traced to an article in Apple Daily, titled “Ten bold predictions for 2020″, meaning it was more of wishful thinking on the part of the author than solid fact.

Interestingly, the Li Ka Shing Foundation, the tycoon’s charity, chose not to comment on the matter, merely stating that they had received inquiries about the article.

There’s no doubt about the generosity of Mr. Li, who turns 92 this year, and that he has shown time and again that the welfare of Hong Kong people is close to his heart.

But suffice it to say that it is unlikely that he plans to take away from the beleaguered administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor the opportunity to make Hongkongers happy.

Besides, the HK$5,000 handouts, assuming that 5 million people would be qualified, would easily amount to HK$25 billion, or about 11 percent of his net worth of US$29.4 billion (HK$229 billion) based on Forbes estimates.

Even so, it is less than the value of the Cheung Kong Centre, where he still occasionally holds office after his retirement in 2018.

Li won praises for his quick action to help small businesses, thanks to the smart use of?artificial intelligence, which enabled his charity to distribute huge amounts of money to the intended beneficiaries within just three months.

His lightning rescue efforts may have made some people red in the face in the government, which bared its inefficiency in the distribution of HK$4,000 handouts to the underprivileged last year.

Over the past six months, several other tycoons offered to do their bit in easing the burden brought about by the political crisis some donating land, others lowering rentals – but so far it’s only Mr. Li who had distributed cash for the benefit of affected Hongkongers.

Perhaps there’s a lesson somewhere in this little joke that went viral on the internet, which is that many people are desperate for some good news in the midst of all the anger and despair.

However, we can’t expect Superman to do all the work.

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EJ Insight writer