Speech by Mr Jacques Chirac President of the Republic of France On bestowing the Insignia of Commander of the Legion of Honour to Mr Li Ka-shing

20 January 2005

Dear Mr Li Ka Shing,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to Palais Elysee to bestow on you the insignia of the Commander of the Legion of Honour.

This high distinction is the reward of an exceptional career and life. It also rewards a great friend of France who takes an active part in strengthening of ties between our two countries.

Your qualities as a leader of an enterprise are exceptional.

You have built a business empire covering port activities, telecommunications, property, energy and retail and manufacturing, which has earned you the title of “Entrepreneur of the Millennium” – a title given to you by the international press.

And your group, with businesses spanning the world, is also interested in France, as reported prominently in the news of the past few days.

But through your performance and success, and through your life, one sees a man of exceptional qualities, and to you I salute. Everyone knows your story very well. You arrived in Hong Kong utterly destitute, after escaping the war that devastated China. Your story portrayed the journey of a man of goodwill and hard work, the journey of a man of heart and a great deal of courage, and the journey of a man with a formidable spirit of enterprise and conquest. You have overcome many trials and tribulations in your lifetime, which saw the passing away of your father as a result of illness, when you were still very young.

Your father’s influence on you has been key to the build-up of your personality. You have been well known for your humanity, simplicity and generosity. All these are the essential qualities that you possess. You have not only applied these qualities to the development of your businesses, but also passed them on to your sons, Victor and Richard, who are now by your side and have achieved their own success.

You have built your success and then fed it back to the community. The Foundation you set up in 1980 has spearheaded its target towards two key areas: education and healthcare. The Shantou University that you founded welcomes today more than 7,000 students. Since the establishment of your foundation, you have given close to a billion Euros for the benefits of the community.

Last October in Hong Kong, when the Chief Executive Mr Tung Chee Hwa introduced you, he added, “We are very proud of him.” Mr David Li was also present and could be a witness to this and I understand well the reasons for this pride.

Your profound generosity is unanimously recognised and it has not excluded France. You have given a gift, a few years ago, of an exceptional collection of antique bronzes to the Guimet Museum. I remember this very clearly, as I have seen the photos of these bronzes before they arrived at the museum.

Today, even more admirable is a project that you support through a partnership between the Shantou University and the Pasteur Institute. As you know, the fight against emerging diseases is one of top priority that President Hu Jintao and I have decided as a Sino-French co-operation. Your support will be an important contribution to the development of this act of public interest, and I thank you for it.

For all these reasons, because your action is an example of humanitarianism and generosity, because you contribute actively to the links between China and France, because you have given so many proofs of your friendship for our country, France is happy to honour you today by naming you Commander in our Order of the Legion of Honour.

Li Ka-shing, in the name of the Republic of France, we make you Commander of the Leigion of Honour.