Hong Kong's richest man is stepping in to help small businesses struggling to recover from months of political and economic unrest, and he's starting with restaurants.
On October 2, Li Ka-Shing, the billionaire often called "superman," first announced that he plans to contribute HK$1 billion ($127 million USD) to the HK$2 billion "Crunch Time Instant Relief Fund" set up by the Hong Kong government. In the statement, the foundation noted that local authorities would help it decide how to distribute the funds.
Local restaurants will be the first to benefit. In an October 30 statement, the foundation outlined that eligible eateries will each receive HK$60,000 ($7,651.81 USD) grants to support their businesses through the ongoing economic unrest caused by the mass protests. To qualify, food businesses with less than 50 employees need to submit a copy of their business registration, food and beverage license, and a photo of their storefront on the foundation's website between November 8 and 17. The grants will be paid out in cash at the end of November, the foundation said.
In total, the gift to small- and medium-sized restaurants will total HK$200 million ($25 million USD).
Li said that the gift was intended to "ease the pressure" on the city's small businesses and that it "will take the lead" in encouraging others to contribute to recovery efforts, according to an October 2 statement translated by Forbes.
The ongoing political unrest has put the city's economy at risk of falling into a recession, Hong Kong officials said October 28. In a statement, Li's foundation explained that it chose the food sector for the first wave of grants because its revenues have dropped 30% since the protests began. It also said the sales slump has led 200 food businesses to permanently shut their doors.
Li previously asked Hong Kong protesters to "stop anger and violence in the name of love"
In August, Li took out newspaper ads asking the protesters to "stop anger and violence in the name of love."
The protests began in July over an extradition bill with mainland China but have since expanded their focus to police actions and their democratic system. Li spoke out in favor of the protesters in September after things became violent, Bloomberg reported. The unrest continued to escalate, however, as protesters threw acid on authorities and a police officer shot a protester on October 1.
According to an August report by The Financial Times' Hudson Lockett, a stock market rout thought to have been caused by the protests wiped an estimated $3 billion off Li's net worth in July and August. The collective net worths of Hong Kong's 10 richest people shrank by approximately $15 billion during that same period, according to Lockett. Billionaires Merlin Swire, Peter Woo, and the Kwok family also put out statements condemning the protests though their companies, Business Insider previously reported.
Li, 91, has a net worth of $27.1 billion, according to Forbes. Li, who was born in China but moved to Hong Kong in 1940, began his career as a factory worker. He built his fortune as a real-estate developer and major investor in port operator and cell phone carrier CK Hutchison Holdings. Li retired from the conglomerate in May 2018, but still serves as a senior advisor.
Li is also a noted philanthropist: In June, he pledged to cover 5 years of tuition for an entire college class, a move that will cost him $14.4 million each year.