Alibaba Taps Former HK Figure for Board

18-Jun-2014 Intellasia | The Wall Street Journal | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Alibaba passed on holding its initial public offering in Hong Kong. But when it looked for board members, it found one all too familiar to residents of that Chinese city.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said in a new filing with US securities regulators on Monday that Tung Chee Hwa, 77 years old, had accepted a role as a director of the e-commerce giant, pending regulatory approval of its share-offering documents. Tung would become one of four independent directors and join the board’s nominating and corporate governance committee.

A scion of a wealthy shipping family, Tung is currently a senior official at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress, a political advisory body. The group is largely powerless, as the big decisions in China are made by the Communist Party’s top leadership – though two years ago he did leave the impression that he is in the know about the country’s top leadership, as he described Chinese President Xi Jinping’s back problems to CNN.

He is most famous for the tumultuous years in which he was Hong Kong’s top official. The UK-educated Tung was appointed by Beijing to be the city’s chief executive in the wake of the 1997 British handover of the territory despite a lack of political experience. He developed a reputation for working hard – one of his nicknames was 7-Eleven.

But Tung’s popularity ebbed following a series of problems, ranging from the Asian financial crisis to his administration’s response to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. In 2003, he backed down from proposed new internal security law following massive street protests. Turnover among his ministers and opposition to a number of land deals also hurt his standing.

In 2004, he was publicly rebuked by then Chinese President Hu Jintao, who told him at a televised event to “summarise your experience, look for inadequacies and constantly raise your governance ability.” He resigned the next year, two years earlier than scheduled, citing ill health.


Category: Hong Kong

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