Hong Kong proves it hasn't lost its capitalist heart

Tycoon Li Ka-shing was again named the city's richest person by business magazine Forbes.

More than a decade after Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, the former British colony is still churning out billionaires - defying critics who thought the communist takeover would quash the territory's capitalist spirit. Tycoon Li Ka-shing was again named the city's richest person by business magazine Forbes on Thursday, topping a list of local entrepreneurs whose fortunes have soared due to the city's hot property sector and its links with booming China. Li, 79, nicknamed "Superman" for his ability turn a profit, increased his fortune to $32 billion last year. That's $10b. more than he had at the end of 2006, according to the magazine. The self-made billionaire has long been at or near the top of various global rich lists. He was named Asia's second richest man and the world's ninth by Forbes last year. His empire includes vast tracks of real estate in Hong Kong, the world's largest container terminal operator and telecommunication interests in Asia and Europe. Many of Hong Kong's tycoons have extensive business links to the mainland where the economy has been growing at rates of more than 10 percent for several years. "This list underscores the fact that Hong Kong, 10 years after its return to China, has kept its niche as one of the world's best conduits for business and investment between mainland China and the rest of the world," Forbes senior editor Russell Flannery said in a statement. "That isn't likely to change anytime soon." Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but still retains its own financial and legal systems. It has been named the world's freest economy 14 years in a row by the Heritage Foundation, a US-based think tank. The top 40 richest people in Hong Kong are worth at least $1b. each, Forbes said, and have a combined wealth of $179b. That's $59b. more than their 40 counterparts in mainland China, it said. In second place behind Li were brothers Raymond, Thomas and Walter Kwok, who run Hong Kong's biggest developer, Sun Hung Kai Properties. Their fortune grew $10b. to $24b., edging out last year's No. 2, Lee Shau-kee. Lee, dubbed "Asia's Warren Buffett" for his spot-on stock predictions, is also founder of property firm Henderson Land and was worth $23b., the magazine said. New World Development head Cheng Yu-tung, worth $9.4b., was fourth, followed by Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho, with $9b. Forbes said it compiled its list by looking at shareholdings in public companies and estimating what holdings in private entities would be worth if public.