Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing weighs in on crisis with poetic adverts

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing used poetry and layered language in a series of newspaper adverts to deliver a nuanced message promoting peace in the city

Hong Kong's wealthiest man Li Ka-shing took out a series of enigmatic newspaper adverts on Friday calling for an end to the political violence plaguing the financial hub.

The 91-year-old billionaire's adverts -- published in seven newspapers including two staunchly pro-Beijing publications -- used poetry and layered language to deliver a nuanced message promoting peace.

But his subtle phrasing contrasted starkly with many fellow tycoons who have published full-throated support for the city's embattled pro-Beijing leaders in recent days and echoed government rhetoric in denouncing violent protests.

One advert featured two giant Chinese characters for "violence" crossed out in red, accompanied by the lines "the best of intentions can lead to the worst outcome" as well as "stop anger in the name of love".

In another, he invoked a line from a Tang dynasty poem which describes a suffering melon tree after its fruit has been repeatedly picked -- a metaphor used to describe something on the verge of ruin after suffering too many attacks.

Li signed off his messages as a private citizen and, crucially, did not specify whether he was directly addressing the government or protesters.

Political scientist and commentator Simon Shen said while prominent figures in the city were required to toe the government line to "oppose violence and support the police", Li's message was the "most thoughtful and moving one".

The nonagenarian tycoon is among the hugely influential coterie of Hong Kong's twentieth-century oligarchs, with Li carving his empire from various sectors and a real estate market now notorious for its sky-high prices.

He invested heavily in China in the 1990s, the dedicated capitalist courting Beijing's Communist leaders as the nation began to emerge as an economic superpower.

But his relationship with Beijing has had its thorny moments, with his moves to offload major mainland property investments in previous years irking Chinese critics.

After the adverts were published, his spokesperson put out some extra comments by Li which hinted at sympathy for some of the grievances aired by the primarily young protesters.

"The young always fear the future has nothing to do with them. Investing in our next generation will always bear fruit for our city. Investing in the future matters," Li said.