Li Ka-Shing Urges Hong Kong Student Protesters to Return Home

Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, urged Hong Kong student pro-democracy protesters to return home, saying their message has been heard after a street occupation that has lasted almost three weeks.

“I urge everyone not to be emotional,” Li said in a statement sent through his companies Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. “I plead with everyone not to let today’s passions become tomorrow’s regrets.”

Tension escalated this week as police shrunk the areas controlled by protesters and the city’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying indicated he was losing patience with the demonstrators that are disrupting traffic and commerce. Hong Kong police used pepper spray and batons to retake a key road earlier today, arresting 45 people.

“We understand students’ passion, but their pursuit should be guided by wisdom and everybody should abide by the law,” Li said. “The disappearance of the rule of law would be Hong Kong’s greatest tragedy.”

The billionaire said before the street protests began that he was opposed to the Occupy Central With Love and Peace movement that had threatened an occupation of the city’s central business district. Li is the world’s 18th richest person, with net worth valued at $29.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Protesters and the government have been in a standoff since the government last week canceled talks aimed at ending the biggest challenge to China’s rule of the city since it regained sovereignty in 1997.

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