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Property giants' influence grows

HONG KONG: Hong Kong's powerful property tycoons exert considerable influence over the city, and there are signs that this sway is growing with positions they control on advisory and statutory bodies increasing threefold since the handover.

Directors of six major property companies had been given 54 seats on various advisory and statutory bodies as of the end of March, compared with just 16 in 1998 and 38 in 2007, according to research carried out by the South China Morning Post.

This gives credence to the perception that property giants wield what some claim is a disproportionate say in policy formulation in Hong Kong.

An academic said the big presence of property firms on advisory and statutory bodies was also an indication of their growing awareness of the need to make their views known on various policy issues.

The 54 seats occupied by directors from the six developers - Sun Hung Kai Properties, Cheung Kong (Holdings) , Henderson Land Development, New World Development, Wharf (Holdings), and Sino Land - account for roughly 1% of the 5,735 posts on 433 advisory and statutory bodies in Hong Kong.

In terms of absolute numbers, the clout of directors of property giants on the city's advisory committees is negligible.

But a closer look proves otherwise. The majority of the advisory and statutory bodies where directors from these property firms are serving are influential committees.

Ten of the 54 seats occupied by property companies' directors are on bodies with substantial statutory power and resources, such as the Airport Authority, the Hospital Authority, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority.

Six property company directors, including Sun Hung Kai Properties vice-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Cheung Kong (Holdings) deputy chairman Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, serve on the Commission on Strategic Development, which advises Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on long-term development.

The six property giants have a total of 96 directors on their boards.

Dr Ray Yep Kin-man, associate professor with City University's department of public and social administration, said the number of property companies' directors appointed to advisory bodies underlined the importance attached by the administration to the views of large firms.

He said property companies were increasingly inclined to woo reputable and high-profile people to join their boards. "As society is becoming more politicised, property giants recognise that behind-the-scenes lobbying is not adequate. They are aware of the need to make their voices known by participating in key advisory bodies," Yep said.

Second-generation property tycoons, such as Victor Li, have become more high-profile in their service on advisory bodies. Li only served on two boards in 1998 but now finds time to sit on four advisory bodies -
South China Morning Post
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