China mourns 'patriotic' Macao SAR tycoon
Stanley Ho’s love for country widely celebrated amid chaos in Hong Kong
Published: May 26, 2020 09:23 PM Updated: May 27, 2020 12:05 AM

Hong Kong-Macao entrepreneur Stanley Ho Hung-sun passes away on Tuesday afternoon at the age of 98 at Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, his daughter Pansy Ho Chiu-king said at a media briefing outside the hospital. This is a file photo that was taken during a previous interview. Photo: cnsphoto

Tributes poured in from across China - the mainland, Macao and Hong Kong - on Tuesday mourning the passing of Stanley Ho Hung-sun, who is known around the world for his casino empire and in China for patriotic contributions to various aspects of the country's social and economic development as well as national unity.

For many across the country, remembering a Hong Kong-born patriot who turned love for the nation into real actions in support of the "one country, two systems" also took new meaning as they watch in awe of secessionist movements backed by foreign powers continuing to ravage Hong Kong in recent months. More than just his patriotic words and deeds, Ho's success in the commercial world also embodies the success of the "one country, two systems" policy, experts noted. 

Ho, who was born in Hong Kong and later moved to Macao to start a business that helped build the Chinese special administrative region into the world's largest gambling hub overtaking Las Vegas in the US, died aged 98 on Tuesday in Hong Kong, according to his family. He had 17 children with four wives.

"It's heartbreaking for us to make this announcement…my father always loved the people of Hong Kong… taking from society and then giving back was his motto, which we will uphold as well. We knew that this day would finally come, but that did not lessen our sadness," Pansy Ho Chiu-king, daughter of Stanley Ho, said at a briefing at Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital.

Ho left behind a business empire that covers gambling, air transport, real estate, shipping, banking and tourism sectors in Macao and Hong Kong. His empire SJM Holdings Ltd has a market capitalization of $50.27 billion as of Tuesday. He has been one of the richest men in Asia for decades with a net worth at roughly $6.4 billion in 2018. 

In Macao, many expressed sadness regarding the news of Ho's passing and love for the man, who, many say, helped turn Macao into a prosperous city with a robust gambling and tourism industry. 

"This is sad as Dr. Ho built up the city in the early days helping people with jobs. He was a legend, a proper patriarch. His legacy keeps reshaping Macao SAR and the Chinese mainland today and they love him," Billy Chan, a Macao local resident, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

In Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor conveyed her deep condolences regarding Ho's passing and praised him as a successful entrepreneur who played a considerable role in both Macao and Hong Kong, according to Hong Kong-based news website 

Lam also praised Ho's patriotism, pointing to his investment in the mainland as early as the 1970s and full support for the country's reform and opening-up.

In the mainland, netizens took to social media to mourn Ho, who many describe as a legendary businessman who loves his homeland, Macao and Hong Kong. Ho's death quickly became a  viral topic on mainland social media, with about 200 million viewers and 350,000 discussions about an hour after the news spread.

"He is a true legend who made great contributions to our nation, he deserves our respect," a netizen posted on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

Many listed concrete contributions Ho made in a wide range of areas. Among others, Ho was an advisor to Beijing's 2008 Olympic Games Bidding Committee and donated 100 million yuan to the construction of China's National Swimming Center, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing.

In 1990, Ho also set up the Stanley Ho Astronautics Training Foundation in China and established the Stanley Ho Astronautics Training Center in Langfang, North China's Hebei Province, which some say contributed immensely to China's space industry.

Ho also drew applause across the country for his efforts in retrieving priceless cultural relics that were looted by Western imperialists and returned them to national museums based in Beijing. In 2007, to mark the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, Ho donated five priceless works of art to the National Museum

Speaking at the donation ceremony, Ho said that he had witnessed the successful implementation of the "one country, two systems" in both the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, and as a Chinese, he looked forward to the peaceful reunification of his country as soon as possible.

Ho, who holds a long list of titles, including as a member of the standing committee of the 9th to 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top advisory body, said his favorite title is "patriotic capitalist."  

Pansy Ho Chiu-king (left), the daughter of Macao-based tycoon and collector Stanley Ho Hung-sun, shakes hands with Chinese Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang in front of the horse head at a ceremony to welcome the statue back, in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

'Patriotic entrepreneur'

The term "patriotic entrepreneur" is a highly regarded honor commonly used in Macao and Hong Kong policy circles. Ho's contribution to the "one country, two systems" policy and his personal virtue and ability illustrated his love for his homeland, Hong Kong and Macao, and his loyalty, according to Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs expert and associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing. 

"Throughout a long period of history and in the process of China's revolutionary development and reform, he turned his patriotism into specific actions; therefore, we use 'patriotic entrepreneur' to make a political evaluation of his life," Tian told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The China Aerospace News newspaper also paid a tribute to Ho with an article listing his contributions to the country's astronautics development under the headline: "Farewell Ho Hung-sun, thank you for supporting China's astronautics for 30 years."

While many on the Chinese mainland remembered Ho's love and loyalty for his country, some also made reference to the current situation in Hong Kong, where secessionist elements in the city backed by foreign powers are wreaking havoc on the city with months of riots and challenging the "one country, two systems." 

After the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, proposed a national security law for the Hong Kong SAR, some radical protesters continue to engage in violence and vandalism in the city. 

On Weibo, many circulated a video of Ho shot in 2017, in which the tycoon expressed support for Hong Kong to push forward with the national security legislation.

"Every country has laws to ensure national security. In line with the 'one country, two systems' principle and the Basic Law, Hong Kong is forming [national security] legislation on its own, I think there should be no opposition to this," Ho said in the video.