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This Chinese Businessman Says He’s Now ‘More Careful’ about Investing in Hong Kong

Hong Kong skyline at TwilightHong Kong skyline at Twilight
The world's freest economy, but Hong Kong's political freedom may be under increasing threat.Nikada/Getty Images

A Chinese entrepreneur who recently invested almost $1 billion in Hong Kong’s property market has warned against the territory’s rising sentiments for greater autonomy and independence, saying such political activism will “damage the business environment” of the city.

Chen Hongtian, who chairs the Cheung Kei Group—a property and finance conglomerate based in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong — cautioned in an interview with the South China Morning Post that investors “may consider investing in other places such as Singapore” if political turmoil in the semiautonomous territory was allowed to brew.

“The investment environment will definitely be hit if the political environment is uncertain,” he told the Post, adding that he himself was “becoming more careful” with his plans to invest in Hong Kong.

Chen, who is a member of the largely decorative political advisery body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, lays the blame squarely at activists advocating for Hong Kong’s autonomy or even outright independence from China. They are “damaging Hong Kong’s business environment,” he said in the interview.

The mogul approved of China’s intervention in the recent case of two pro-independence lawmakers taking their oaths of office. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing effectively yanked the elected Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching from their seats, but Chen tells the Post that the Hong Kong government “can be even tougher and firmer.”

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Chen’s name came to prominence in Hong Kong earlier this year, when Cheung Kei snapped up a new harborfront office building as its Hong Kong headquarters at over $570 million — and he himself spent almost $270 million on a mansion that became the territory’s most expensive home.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily newspaper reported in July that Chen and his firm had singlehandedly scooped almost $1 billion worth of Hong Kong property between then and the previous September. The privately-held Cheung Kei touts a total of $3 billion in assets, according to an October report in Forbes.