LUCKNOW - Chief Minister Mayawati Wednesday accused the Election
Commission of being biased towards opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh,
reacting sharply to the poll panel’s order to remove the state’s
principal home secretary.
Addressing a hurriedly convened press conference just before flying
off to Maharashtra for her election campaign, Mayawati said: ‘Removal
of the state’s principal home secretary Fateh Bahadur was arbitrary and
has apparently been done simply on the basis of flimsy, false and
one-sided complaints made by some opposition parties.’
Mayawati, who is chief of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, said: ‘The
least that the Election Commission should have done is to authenticate
these complaints before ordering such a drastic step.’
‘In the past also, the poll panel went about ordering the removal of
some district magistrates and superintendents of police, besides some
lower officials without verifying facts, which is not being fair to the
She alleged that many new appointments were ‘made directly by the
commission without even seeking a panel from the state government’.
‘The Uttar Pradesh government is committed to strictly adhering to
the norms and rules laid down by the Election Commission and I have
also issued firm directives not only to my officials but also to party
candidates and workers not to allow the slightest violation of the
Election Commission’s model code of conduct.’
‘I would like to make an humble appeal to the Election Commission to
point out any violation in the code of conduct or in the guidelines
given by it. I can assure them that corrective action would be taken
promptly by the state government, but it should not be guided by
baseless and false complaints made by the opposition.’
She warned: ‘If the commission continues with such arbitrary
practices, then let me tell them that the state government will not be
responsible for any untoward incidents like a terrorist strike, a
communal flare-up or any other breakdown of law and order, including
mishaps with some candidate.’
By MAX HASTINGS
Last updated at 11:14 18 februar 2008
Behind high walls and guarded security gates, in the outskirts
of Beijing, stands a big apartment building, rejoicing in the name
of Chateau Regency.
Access is hampered by serried ranks of BMWs and Jaguars. A sign
in the lobby proclaims: “China’s premier luxury apartment
This is one of the glitz-built fortresses of the country’s
new commercial class, who are gaining and spending fortunes on a
Scroll down for more…
High life: The wealthy are splashing out on designer goods
Average annual incomes in China’s countryside are
£236, but in the cities there are now 68 billionaires, up
from a mere 27 in 2006.
Some have got rich from manufacturing, others from electronics,
property, trading or - like Liu Yonghao, a former pig-food salesman
whose New Hope group is now official supplier of pork to the
Olympic Games - through agricultural products.
Some 10,000 Chinese boast a net worth over £5 million
apiece, and a string of them live in the Chateau Regency.
The building is a monument to such excess that even the most in
your face British lottery winner might flinch.
A Beijing businesswoman, whom to spare her blushes we shall call
Hui, gave me a guided tour of her eighth floor palace.
The apartment is a riot of gilding; purple and green carpets; a
library packed with new, unread and probably unreadable books;
electronic gadgetry; pools of giant goldfish; vast gold mirrors;
imperial-sized beds and sofas deep enough to drown in.
The dining-room table is permanently laid for eight. The massive
sunken bath and Jacuzzi look in danger of falling through into the
A whole room is devoted to shoes, racked from floor to ceiling
in a fashion that would earn the envy of former Philippines First
Lady and shoe queen Imelda Marcos.
My hostess, a chunky 47-year-old, has made a fortune out of
trading in pharmaceuticals.
She dispensed with her husband along the way and now lives in
splendid isolation with her 20-year-old daughter who, poor kid,
resembles a rabbit trapped in gold headlights.
They enjoy from their balcony a view of the scruffy apartment
buildings inhabited by less fortunate neighbours, but no Beijing
resident can afford to care too much about aesthetic beauty, which
the city is almost bereft of.
Hui drives a Maserati, which she tells me with a giggle she has
taken up to 140mph, a notable achievement amid the gridlocked local
Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton should smile upon her, because
she is the sort of customer who keeps them in caviar. I asked if
she was happy, and got a huge grin. “I love my life,” she
She has lately discovered religion, and her apartment boasts its
own Buddhist shrine.
“Before I became religious, I was always stressed, always
pressured,” she says. “Now, my Buddha master tells me I
should take it easier - and I do. Buddhism has taught me about my
“I’m successful because it’s my destiny. If
you’re born into a poor family, then that’s another kind of
“Any time I have a problem, my Buddha master tells me what
I should do.”
It seemed discourteous to ask whether her Buddha master takes a
percentage for all this sage advice.
It was he, she says, who urged her to get into property
She is now doing that, too, with notable success. She employs a
workforce which will soon be 100-strong and is thinking of buying a
country house with a garden.
Unsurprisingly, she enthuses about China’s government:
“They are sensible people. They let us develop our businesses.
I like them.”
I tell her, entirely truthfully, that her flat is awesome.
I especially like the Western Christmas decorations adorning her
horrible china ornaments, the fairy lights laced into her fitness
“My Buddha master tells me I must get slimmer,” she
says, beaming, and he is not wrong about that.
China’s new rich have embarked on a consumer binge which
inspires them to commute to Hong Kong for tax-free shopping, and to
the capitals of Asia and Europe in pursuit of pleasure.
Lu Yamei, a self-consciously glamorous 39-year-old swathed in
mink and make-up apparently applied with an industrial
paint-sprayer, fingered a Cartier necklace as we talk.
“I have just bought it, as a present to myself for working
so hard,” she says, with a coy little smile.
Yamei is a cosmopolitan who lived in San Francisco for three
years when her property developer husband worked there.
Back in China, she started a kindergarten for the children of
the wealthy, which now boasts a staff of 40, ten of them imported
from the U.S. to teach English to her 100 pupils, who start
language courses at the age of three.
If others worry about the chasm between haves and have-nots in
the new China, Yamei does not: “How do you say what is rich
and what is poor?” she demands.
“If you make the money legally, you’re entitled to it.
I just want to fulfil my potential.”
To do so, she maintains a frenetic pace. Last Saturday, she
tells me, she was working until 5am.
She and her husband keep three houses in Beijing, one used
exclusively for business entertaining, which she enjoys.
She watches TV news and reads magazines assiduously, so that she
can keep her end up in conversation at power dinners.
She herself prepares meals occasionally: “Because I want my
children to grow up knowing that their mother is capable of
She has recently started a new business, franchising European
health products explicitly targeted at the rich.
She says she organises her schedule meticulously, so that she
can spend quality time at weekends with her nine-year-old
She no longer takes many foreign holidays, as she is too busy.
Max Mara, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, her favourite brands,
get her custom in Beijing, where their wares are heavily taxed but
She and her husband have already planned their children’s
education. After high school, they will be sent to university in
the U.S., where they were born.
“It’s a country that gives you great chances,” she
Most wealthy Chinese nowadays dispatch their children abroad for
a few years, to perfect their fluency in English. Another popular
selfindulgence among businessmen is to maintain parallel households
and mistresses in several Chinese cities, but I did not ask
Yamei’s views on this quaint custom.
She says she now finds the business climate in China more
difficult than it was back in the 1980s: “There is so much
competition. But if you’re tough enough and you’ve got the
right products, you can make it.”
She looks tough enough, all right. Her father was, until
retirement, a detective in Beijing’s criminal investigation
Now, Yamei says, Dad looks in wonder at her fabulous range of
possessions and says: “You’d better make sure you’ve
got plenty of security.”
Wang Jiangmin’s anti-virus software company has propelled
him into the ranks of the super-rich
Wang Jiangmin is a less accomplished shopper than either Yamei
or Hui, but he is a much bigger money-maker.
He is a 57-year-old computer wizard who over the past 20 years
has built an anti-virus software business, still wholly owned by
himself and his wife, which has propelled him into the ranks of the
If you met Wang in the street, you would see only a tall,
gangling, nerdish-looking figure in a quilted jacket, who walks
with a limp.
When I was shown into his unpretentious Beijing boardroom,
strewn with stacked chairs and assorted debris, at first I mistook
him for a bag-carrier for the company president.
Wang’s story is rags-to-riches. Crippled-with polio as a
child, he was unable to attend regular school.
Instead, he devoted himself to studying technology at the
factory where his father worked. He qualified as an electronic
engineer, and worked for years as a line employee.
In 1986, he exploited China’s new wave of commercial freedom
to start a business in two little rooms with eight employees.
For the next 20 years, he was principal designer of the products
which have made him rich.
Today, he gives responsibility for sustaining innovation to his
180-strong staff, 90 of them engineers. He focuses upon selling his
wares around the world.
“I’m nothing special,” shrugs this mild, curiously
sympathetic man. “There are thousands like me in China.
“Today, people are making in months the sort of fortune
which it took me 20 years to achieve.”
He ticks off some of his expensive mistakes - notably a big
premature investment in the internet. He is an intensely serious
workaholic, who says he is too busy to spend his own money.
He travels abroad only to attend computer conventions.
Unlike some of China’s conspicuous consumers who crowd the
luxury stores, he says that money means nothing to him, now he has
enough of it to buy anything he wants. His only relaxation is an
occasional day’s fishing.
When I tell him that I, too, am a fisherman, he waxes indignant
about the prices charged by the lakes outside Beijing: “Some
places make you pay 60 pence to catch a fish weighing under a
pound! I prefer to go to places where you pay £3, but there
is no weight limit.”
I suggest that he should try salmon-fishing in Canada, where his
only son has been studying for the past four years. “When
would I get the time?” he demands.
A host of overseas Chinese, the diaspora which quit China during
its decades of poverty and fear, are returning to share the glories
of its new prosperity. Wiang’s son, by contrast, thinks he may
stay in Canada.
His father has no objections. He professes no interest in
founding a dynasty. “If that’s what he wants, so be
it,” he says.
Wang thinks Westerners are more frightened than they need to be
about China’s dramatic economic and industrial rise. “As
manufacturers, we are at the cutting edge,” he acknowledges.
“But as innovators, the West is still a long way
Unlike some of his peers, who are shamelessly boastful about
their wealth, Wang is defensive about his fortune.
He says it is much less fun having money than he used to imagine
when he was a humble factory worker.
“Our rich class is now paying more tax. I’ve given over
a million renminbi (about £72,000) to a foundation, two
million to a university. We’re contributing to society,
generating jobs. I’m just lucky that my field has developed as
fast as it has.”
Wang’s business, like those of so many 21st-century computer
kings, remains the focus of this austere, dedicated man’s life.
His attempts to amuse himself by diversifying have not been a
“I bought two restaurants,” he complains. “They
employ 200 staff, but they’ve never made any money.”
Doesn’t he even enjoy eating in them? He throws up his
hands: “I don’t care what I eat. To be honest, I prefer
fast food. I don’t want to waste time eating.”
Robert Hung-Ngai Ho has an ambitious plan to spread the seeds of Buddhism from the Far East to around the world.
Vancouver, Canada — While the eastern religion
commends frugality and abstinence from a life devoted to material
things, it also teaches generosity and kindness — which is what the
immigrant billionaire from Hong Kong tries to exemplify in his
philanthropy. That includes this week’s $4 million gift to the
University of Toronto at Scarborough, the largest donation ever
received by the satellite campus.
<< MICHAEL STUPARYK/TORONTO STAR
billionaire businessman Robert Hung-Ngai Ho, who now makes his home in
Vancouver, has gifted $4 million for Buddhist studies to the
Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto.
Since 2000, Ho has donated millions of dollars to establish academic
programs in Buddhism at universities in Hong Kong and Thailand in the
name of Tung Lin Kok Yuen, a non-profit Buddhist group founded in 1935
by his late grandparents, who began the family fortune.
Now, the retired Vancouver-based businessman and one-time journalist
hopes to encourage academic Buddhist studies in his adopted homeland.
This week’s announcement at the Scarborough campus, which will bolster
the U of T’s existing Buddhist studies program, followed an identical
donation in February to the University of British Columbia.
“Our vision would be to see Buddhism not just as a religion
predominant in Asia but to be more widely known and better understood
by the international community,” Ho told a luncheon held at the campus
Wednesday in appreciation of Ho’s generosity.
“Buddhism, like many of the other religions, has been an integral
part of our global cultural development and will continue to grow in
harmony with our society globally.”
Born into a Buddhist family, Ho, 74, said he did not enjoy going to
temples or Sunday religious school until he turned 40 and began seeking
spiritual growth. After studying various religions, he felt Buddhism
suited him best because of its principle of self-salvation.
“It teaches you to do everything on your own, to rely on yourself
instead of any supernatural powers or gods,” explained Ho, who retired
in Canada in 1989 after retiring as publisher of Hong Kong’s Kung
Sheung Daily Press. (A master’s graduate of Columbia University’s
journalism school, he had worked at the Pittsburgh Press and National
Geographic, for a time as White House correspondent, before returning
to Hong Kong.)
`Our vision would be to see Buddhism … widely known and better understood’
Donor Robert Hung-Ngai Ho
“Unfortunately, people mix up their superstitions with Buddhism,
turning it into a mythical chop suey, so others think that Buddhists
are a bunch of voodoos.”
That’s why Ho has put his energy and resources into building a
strong global network of Buddhist studies programs at academic
institutions, which can help debunk misconceptions about this ancient
The gift will support a visiting professorship and lectureship
program in Buddhist studies, as well as conferences, public lecture
series and scholarships.
Professor William Bowen, chair of the humanities department at
Scarborough, said the visiting lectureship will enrich
interdisciplinary studies in visual and performing arts, religion,
philosophy and more.
Studies of Buddhism and other eastern religions have proved popular,
he said. A first-year course in religious traditions of the East has
already reached its capacity of 500 students, and a second-year
introduction to Buddhist philosophy course is filled with 86.
“But the most spectacular impact is that our students and the
community as a whole will be exposed to a changing roster of
international experts, and given immediate exposure to the vitality of
research in Buddhist thought and culture,” noted Bowen, adding that the
Buddhist conferences and lectures will start in September 2007.
The soft-spoken Ho said he learned much about generosity from his
grandparents, the late Lady Clara and Sir Robert Ho Tung, who headed
what was perhaps Hong Kong’s wealthiest family long before fellow
billionaire entrepreneur Li Ka Shing became a familiar name to
Born to a Dutch father and Chinese mother, Sir Ho made his fortune
in real estate and commodities trading. Many parks, schools and
buildings in Hong Kong have been named after him, and the Ho clan
remains one of the most influential in Hong Kong’s business community.
All the charitable giving, according to Ho, is simply “in accordance
with Lady Clara’s compassion and sacred vow to spread out beyond Hong
Kong so that overseas Chinese and foreigners would be enlightened by
the Buddhist doctrine.”
Ho said he’s also negotiating with a U.S. university to build a
Buddhism study centre south of the border. He declined to name it, but
Ho has already donated more than $30 million to his alma mater, New
York’s Colgate University, to fund projects in the sciences and Asian
|Has not changed from the list for 2007.
|Has increased from the list for 2007.
|Has decreased from the list for 2007.
|Net worth (USD)
|Source(s) of wealth
|Lee Kun Hee
|Chung Mong Koo
|Shin Dong Bin
|Lee Myung Hee
|Lee Jay Yong
|Shin Dong Joo
|Yong Keu Cha
|Chung Mong Joon
|Suh Kyung Bae
|Han Chang Woo
|Net worth (USD)
|Source(s) of wealth
|Chung Yong Jin
|Shin Chang Jae
This benchmark would suggest at least 1000 employees of major
companies making more than $1 million a year of salary; and perhaps 500
earning more than $2 million based on Korea’s commercial success.
Chaebul.com is a local source that evaluates the fortunes of Korean
businesspersons. According to its analysis of listed stock value as
January 2008, the top 20 known Korean share-rich individuals are the