Hong Kong is home to a rich tradition of philanthropy. The city ranked 26th for generosity out of 145 territories in the 2015 edition of the World Giving Index published by the Charities Aid Foundation. And it’s only going in one direction, especially with family foundations becoming increasingly popular, and the millennial generation taking over family companies, with their greater emphasis on giving back. That also means philanthropy tends to be more planned these days, starting from specific objectives and working strategically, rather than just backing individual projects on an ad hoc basis. The top recipients of Hong Kong’s generosity remain the same, though: healthcare and education, and in particular universities.

1. Li Ka-shing

Hong Kong’s richest person is also its most generous giver, having set up the Li Ka Shing Foundation in 1980 with the aim of donating a third of his assets to it. Li’s biggest focus is education: he funded the founding of Shantou University, as well as giving to other educational institutions including the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Cambridge, UC Berkeley and Stanford.

Disaster relief donations have included US$3m after 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and HK$30m after 2008 Sichuan earthquake; while a mammoth HK$1.7bn paid to build the Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po.

See Li Ka-shing's profile on the Tatler 500 list.

2. Tin Ka-ping

Education, in this case across China, is also the focus of the plastics billionaire’s charitable giving. Tin, who says he regards his philanthropic work as his second career, set up his Tin Ka Ping Foundation in August 1982.

Since then it has assisted numerous schools, kindergartens, universities, teacher training institutions and vocational colleges in Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as rural libraries and hospitals. Tin’s donations have enabled more than 200 projects in his hometown of Meizhou, Guangdong alone.

3. Ronnie Chan Chi-chung

The Hang Lung Properties tycoon made quite a splash in 2014 with a single donation—of more than US$350m to Harvard University (he also gave the smaller matter of US$20m to the University of Southern California).

Over the years he has lent financial assistance to numerous students in mainland China, while he also helped finance the construction of the nonprofit Asia Society’s posh Admiralty headquarters.

See Ronnie Chan's profile on the Tatler 500 list.

4. Lee Shau-kee

Hong Kong’s educational institutions have done very well out of the Henderson Land boss, who started his own foundation in 1988. In 2007 he gave the University of Hong Kong HK$500m and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology HK$400m, while two years earlier the Chinese University of Hong Kong received HK$50m.

Also in 2005, he set up the Warmth Project, an RMB330m programme in mainland China that has trained a million farmers and 10,000 village doctors. In a move that must have hurt for a property developer, in 2015 he gave away a big chunk of land—to house Hong Kong's biggest youth hostel, in Yuen Long.

See Lee Shau-kee's profile on the Tatler 500 list.

5. Victor and William Fung

The Li & Fung tycoons’ donations to education through their foundation, established in 2006, are generally tightly focused and practical in nature.

As well as giving generously to Harvard, Tsinghua University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others, its Fung Scholars Programme provides gifted youngsters with the chance to experience different cultures; while think tank the Fung Global Institute, launched in 2010, which became The Asia Global Institute at The University of Hong Kong in 2015, promotes transformative Asian thinking.

See Victor Fung's profile on the Tatler 500 list.

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