Five people from Hong Kong and Macau have been commended – some of them posthumously – by Beijing for their “outstanding contributions” to the country’s reform and opening up.
The group comprises former World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, 71, and Hong Kong tycoon Tsang Hin-chi, 84, as well as late luminaries: local businessmen Henry Fok Ying-tung, Wong Kwan-cheng and Macau tycoon Ma Man-kei.
They are among a list of 100 people compiled by the Communist Party’s awards office.
The list was published by the party’s mouthpiece, People’s Daily on Monday.
Those selected come from a wide range of professions, including scientists, economists, grass-roots party cadres, model workers, state enterprise managers, and private entrepreneurs.
Hong Kong property tycoons like Li Ka-shing, Lee Shau-kee and Cheng Yu-tung were not included on the list.
Fok, who died in 2006 aged 83, was among the first batch of Hong Kong businessmen who invested in the mainland during its initial phase of reform.
In 1980, he founded the Zhongshan Hot Spring Resort, the mainland’s first joint-venture hotel, in the remote village of Yongmo in Zhongshan city. In February 1983, he opened the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, the first five-star joint-venture hotel on the mainland.
Fok had also invested more than HK$10 billion to finance infrastructure projects and the development of education, culture and health care on the mainland. He was vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the state’s top advisory body.
It is widely held that Fok made his first “bucket of gold” by shipping machinery, medicines and other vital supplies to the mainland while an international trade embargo was imposed on China during the Korean war in the early 1950s.
Fok enjoyed direct access to many state leaders, including late patriarch Deng Xiaoping. In the early 1990s, he started to develop the Pearl River Delta island of Nansha, which was dotted with desolate beaches.
Wong Kwan-cheng, who died in 1986 aged 79, was former president of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. The People’s Daily report said he played a pivotal role in encouraging Hong Kong and Macau businessmen and overseas Chinese to invest in the mainland.
He also set up the K.C. Wong Education Foundation in 1985 to finance a Chinese government plan to send students overseas for an education in science and technology.
Ma Man-kei, who died in 2014 aged 94, was a vice-chairman of the CPPCC. He was a staunch supporter of the return of Macau to China in 1999.
Margaret Chan and Tsang Hin-chi are the only surviving members among the five from both cities who made the list.
Chan was Hong Kong’s director of health from 1994 to 2003. She became the first Chinese WHO director general in 2007 and served as the head of the UN agency in charge of international public health until last year.
Tsang, now 84, started investing in the mainland in 1986 and had donated more than HK$1.2 billion since the late 1970s to support education, sports and scientific developments there.
Meanwhile, Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on held a seminar with principal officials on Monday to convey an earlier message by Chinese President Xi Jinping to a delegation on November 12.
Chui said the city’s officials must actively take part in the “Belt and Road Initiative”, Beijing’s global trade strategy, and the development of the “Greater Bay Area”, a plan to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine other mainland cities into an economic and innovation powerhouse.
Xi had made the remarks in Beijing earlier this month during a meeting with a delegation of top government figures and business leaders from Macau and Hong Kong.