1. Li Ka-shing, business magnate and philanthropist
Superman by name, Superman by nature. Ninety-one-year-old Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing—who was given the nickname decades ago for the huge influence he wields over the city’s economy—sprang into action soon after the Covid-19 virus emerged in Wuhan, donating HK$100 million to the Chinese city in early February. That money was used to support healthcare workers through the magnate’s Li Ka‑shing Foundation, the second largest private foundation in the world after that of Bill and Melinda Gates.
A week later, he gave 250,000 face masks to 13 social welfare organisations and six homes for the elderly in Hong Kong, as well as medical supplies to doctors in public hospitals.
Some of Li’s previous philanthropic work—he has donated more than US$3 billion so far—is also bearing fruit during the current crisis. His HK$214 million donation to the University of Alberta in Canada in 2010 led to the establishment of the Li Ka-shing Institute of Virology, which is currently researching into the best ways to test, treat and vaccinate against Covid-19.
Similar research is being conducted at the Li Ka-shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong.
The faculty’s website on the subject of Covid-19 has become a go-to resource for governments and the public, offering everything from the latest research papers to easy-to-understand fact sheets on the virus.
Neither Li nor his foundation has announced what initiative or organisation they will be supporting next. But like Superman, he is likely to appear when you need him most.
Related: Cover Story: Tatler Asia Salutes Those Stepping Up In The Fight Against Covid-19
2. Jack Ma, former executive chairman, Alibaba
Jack Ma once said, “When you're a millionaire, the money is yours; and when you have tens and tens of billions, the money is not yours any more but a social responsibility. And it means more contributions.”
In the chaotic days following the government’s decision to lock down the city of Wuhan, Alibaba announced an RMB1 billion fund for purchasing medical supplies and equipment to donate to medical institutions in Wuhan and Hubei province. The Jack Ma Foundation simultaneously gave RMB100 million to support the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Alibaba also set up a special team of workers from 18 Hema Grocery Stores in Wuhan to provide daily meals for key hospitals in the city and food supplies to 21 medical units. Hema also took the lead to provide more jobs in the region during the crisis.
Meanwhile, Ma’s gifts of equipment, testing kits and masks to hard-hit countries, including the US, Iran, Italy and 54 countries in Africa, have stood out all the more distinctively against a backdrop of xenophobia and imperilled international diplomacy.
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3. James Dyson, founder, Dyson
In just 10 days, billionaire inventor James Dyson unveiled the prototype for CoVent, a new model of ventilator engineered in collaboration with Cambridge-based The Technology Partnership to deliver high-quality, filtered air by harnessing Dyson’s air-purifying technology. One key feature is that it has been designed to be portable so that it can be used in different settings, such as in field hospitals or during the transportation of patients. Most importantly, CoVent “can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume," Dyson said. The motors for the CoVent machines are being produced in Dyson’s Singapore Advanced Manufacturing facility in the Tuas industrial district.
See also: Tan Min-Liang's Razer To Make and Donate 1 Million Surgical Masks