Mr Li was born in 1928 in Chiu Chow, a coastal city in the southeastern part of China. Mr Li was forced to quit school when he was 12 and fled to Hong Kong with his family to avoid the perils of war. Shortly thereafter, his father suffered from tuberculosis and passed away in Hong Kong. Before he was 15, Mr Li had to shoulder the responsibility of providing for his family and found a job in a plastics trading company where he labored 16 hours a day. By 1950, his hard work, prudence and his pursuit of excellence had enabled him to start his own company, Cheung Kong Industries. From manufacturing plastics, Mr Li led and developed his company into a leading real estate investment company in Hong Kong that was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1972. Cheung Kong continued to expand by acquiring Hutchison Whampoa and Hongkong Electric Holdings Limited (renamed Power Assets Holdings Limited) in 1979 and 1985 respectively.
Based in Hong Kong, the Cheung Kong Group's businesses encompass such diverse areas as property development and investment, real estate agency and estate management, hotels, telecommunications and e-commerce, finance and investments, retail, ports and related services, energy, infrastructure projects and materials, media, and biotechnology. Mr Li is a strong believer in synergy—the power of combined efforts. This belief is reflected in his naming his company Cheung Kong Holdings after the Yangtze River that flows through China, a great river that aggregates countless streams and tributaries. The Times in the United Kingdom and Ernst & Young UK jointly named Mr Li as the Entrepreneur of the Millennium at the turn of the century.
Mr Li believes that anyone can serve society, but only someone with a giving heart can propel social progress. This is key to creating a positive virtuous cycle in society. Mr Li established the Li Ka Shing Foundation (LKSF) in 1980 to enhance the impact of philanthropy through three strategic objectives: 1) nurture a culture of giving; 2) support education reform initiatives that encourage long-term thinking, empowerment, creativity, open-mindedness and constructive engagement with a focus on positive and sustainable change; and 3) help advance medical research and services. To date, the Foundation has granted over HKD13 billion to these investments.
Mr Li also founded Shantou University in 1981 in Shantou, China, to engineer reforms in China's education system. Shantou University has nine colleges including a medical college with five affiliated hospitals. With students enrolling from all parts of China, the university has 7,500 undergraduate and 1,500 graduate students.
In recognition of his philanthropic efforts and his contributions to society, Mr Li has received Honorary Doctorates from the University of Cambridge, the University of Calgary in Canada, Peking University, and the University of Hong Kong, among others. Mr Li, a Justice of the Peace, has also received the Grand Officer of the Order Vasco Nunez de Balboa from Panama, The Commander in the Leopold Order from Belgium, Knight (Commander of the Order) of the British Empire, the Grand Bauhinia Medal of Hong Kong, and the Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur from the French Government.
Mr Li has two sons. The elder son, Victor, now serves as Managing Director and Deputy Chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited, Deputy Chairman of Hutchison Whampoa Limited, and Chairman of Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Limited and CK Life Sciences international (Holdings) Inc. Mr Li's younger son, Richard, is Chairman of PCCW, one of Asia's leading information technology and telecommunications companies.
30 April 2013