Hong Kong billionaires are begging for pro-democracy protestors to stop holding up the city as the sharemarket takes a hit and the tourism industry suffers amid mass demonstrations.
While the trade standoff between the United States and China has contributed to some of the losses, 11 weeks of protests over a now-suspended bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to China for trial is starting to hurt Hong Kong’s strong economy.
After weeks of silence, the city’s super-rich are turning to local newspapers to speak out.
Nicknamed ‘Superman’, Hong Kong’s richest person Li Ka-shing took out full page advertisements in English and Chinese language newspapers on Friday appealing for “love” and an end to violence in the city.
It featured the Chinese word for “violence” with a red cross through it, paired with slogans about loving both China and Hong Kong.
Mr Ka-shing signed the ad as “from a Hong Kong citizen”.
The 91-year-old entrepreneur, worth approximately $39 billion, is the latest to join the city’s corporate elite in their bid to urge calm and support for the government as the protests wipe billions of dollars off their market value.
At least seven companies, all of them among the 10 worst performers on the benchmark Hang Seng Index over the past month, have placed advertisements in papers calling for peace.
The net worth of the 10 wealthiest tycoons, who derive their fortune from Hong Kong-listed companies, has shed billions of dollars since the protests started in June, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index.
Other conglomerates calling for restoration of law and order include billionaire property tycoon and jewellery magnate Henry Cheng.
An advertisement by Cheng’s New World Development Co. implored readers to “save the economy, safeguard livelihood”.
Some businesses such as Swire Pacific have supported the city’s Beijing-backed authorities in their efforts to quell the unrest by issuing a firm statement condemning “illegal activities and violent behaviour” in the city.
Swire Pacific is one of Hong Kong’s wealthiest family-owned luxury real estate empires.
The family business is the largest shareholder in Cathay Pacific, owns luxury hotels, office towers and high-end shopping malls throughout the city.
Sun Hung Kai Properties, which is controlled by Asia’s third-richest family, the Kwoks, has also called for the violence to stop and for social order to be restored.
Controlled by the ultra-rich, Hong Kong has the most expensive real estate in the world.
Most of the protestors are university students and young professionals who have been squeezed out of the property market and will never be able to afford their own home.
Targeting the city’s richest has become a part of their plan.
The plea from the wealthy comes as Twitter and Facebook say they dismantled a state-backed information operation originating in mainland China that sought to undermine protests in Hong Kong.
Twitter said it suspended 936 accounts and the operations appeared to be a co-ordinated state-backed effort originating in China.
Describing it as a campaign “to sow political discord in Hong Kong”, Twitter denounced what it described as “manipulative” behaviour.
“This disclosure consists of 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China,” Twitter said in a blog post.
The social media giant is banned in the country. Twitter said some of the users appeared to be employing VPNs while others seemed to have accessed the website directly from mainland China.
“Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation,” Twitter said.
Facebook said it had removed accounts and pages from a small network. It said that its investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.
Meanwhile US Vice President Mike Pence has urged China to respect the integrity of Hong Kong’s laws and repeated President Donald Trump’s warning that it would be harder for Washington to make a trade deal with Beijing if there was violence in the former British territory.