50 Philanthropists In Asia Who Are Changing The World
Tatler editors from around Asia shine a light on the philanthropists in their region who are donating huge sums of money, establishing vital charities or devising whole new ways of giving back—and sometimes all three.
Why him?Hong Kong’s richest person is also one of the city’s most generous philanthropists—he founded the Li Ka Shing Foundation in 1980 and aims to donate at least a third of his more than US$30bn fortune to it.
Digging deep: Li has made multiple large donations, including earmarking HK$8bn worth of grants for Guangdong’s Shantou University, which he helped to establish.
Why him? Chairman of the Hang Lung Group, Chan is regularly cited as one of Asia’s leading philanthropists and made headlines in 2014 when he donated US$350m to Harvard, the largest donation the university has ever received.
That's not all: Chan is also co-chair of the Asia Society and supports the University of Southern California and the Chinese Heritage Foundation, among many other causes. With his brother Gerald, he manages their family’s philanthropic Morningside Foundation.
3/47LUI CHE WOO
Why him? Chairman of the Galaxy Entertainment Group, Lui established the Lui Che Woo Prize For World Civilisation in 2015, honouring people who have made “remarkable contributions to the welfare of mankind.” The prize comes with a cash payment of HK$20m—more than double the reward for a Nobel. Previous honourees include former US president Jimmy Carter and the international NGO Médecins Sans Frontières.
Why him?Wheelock and Wharf tycoon Peter Woo has been a business and community leader and a quiet philanthropist for more than 40 years. In 1994 Woo donated HK$120m to build the Sir Yue Kong Pao Center for Cancer and the Lady Pao Children’s Cancer Centre. That same year he persuaded the government to establish the Hong Kong Environment and Conservation Fund Committee, which has since directed more than HK$5bn into more than 4,000 eco initiatives around the city. The fund was only made possible by the HK$50m seed funding provided by the Woo Wheelock Green Fund.
That's not all: In 2011, Woo established Project WeCan, a HK$500 million initiative to provide Hong Kong students with opportunities for professional development.
5/47LEE SHAU KEE
Why him?Henderson Land supremo Lee founded the Lee Shau Kee Foundation in 1988, and through it he has made several major donations, including RMB330m (about US$47.4m) to establish Mainland China’s largest agricultural training programme; HK$500m to the University of Hong Kong; and, in May 2018, HK$100m to the Hang Seng Management College.
Digging deep: Lee stated in a biography that he would donate a further HK$1bn to charity if the Hang Seng Index climbed above 30,000 points. When exactly that happened on November 22, 2017, a spokesperson announced he would donate the money to “charities and education programmes.”
Why her? After observing a lack of support for the arts and heritage in Hong Kong, Michelle Ong established the First Initiative Foundation (FIF) in 2011 to give the city’s cultural scene a boost. Over the years Ong and FIF have worked on a series of innovative projects, including publishing two children’s books about Monet to accompany an exhibition of the artist’s work and exhibiting a full T-rex skeleton—the first ever displayed in Hong Kong—in IFC mall.
Why him? The Kadoorie family have been philanthropic leaders in Asia for generations, dating back to the late 19th century when Elly and Ellis Kadoorie began supporting and establishing a series of charitable organisations. Today Michael Kadoorie is a trustee of the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation, which donates to organisations around Asia. Since the 1970s the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation has supported more than a million people in Nepal.
That's not all: The family continue to support Kadoorie Farm, a conservation and education centre in Hong Kong’s New Territories.
8/47VICTOR AND WILLIAM FUNG
Why them? These brothers co-founded the Victor and William Fung Foundation in 2006 with the aim of nurturing future leaders by providing scholarships to university students around the world. At the time of writing, there are 5,400 Fung Scholars spread over 31 universities.
Why her? In 1987 one of Lo’s friends was diagnosed with cancer and—much to Lo’s shock—found that there wasn’t much of a support network for cancer patients in Hong Kong. Spurred into action, Lo established the Hong Kong Cancer Fund that same year. Today the organisation serves more than 20,000 people a year through its three CancerLink support centres and seven in-hospital resource centres.
Why him? Xu is one of China’s richest people—and he’s one of the country’s most generous donors, too. In 2017 he donated more than RMB4.2bn (about US$603m), of which 3bn went to the Guizhou Provincial Poverty Alleviation Fund. Forbes estimates that made him China’s biggest donor that year; experts are waiting with bated breath to see if he’s retained the title this year.
Why him? The Hurun Report, often described as China’s Rich List, estimates that between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018 He donated RMB7.5bn (about US$1.1bn) to charities and causes. Most of this was funnelled through his eponymous foundation, which he uses to donate to causes including education, healthcare, elderly care and cultural heritage. He made his fortune as founder of the Midea Group, the world’s largest producer of electrical appliances.
Why him? Ma hit headlines around the world this year when he announced that he’d be stepping down from his role as executive chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba to focus on his philanthropy and his eponymous foundation, which funds everything from environmental to educational programmes.
That's not all: This year he launched the Netpreneur Prize, which aims to build a community of tech entrepreneurs around Africa. Over the next 10 years Ma will distribute US$10m among 100 African entrepreneurs.
Why him? In 2011 Cao donated more than 300m of his family’s shares in the Fuyao Glass Industry Group, with a market value of RMB3.5bn (about US$502m) at the time, to generate the cash to establish the Heren Charitable Foundation, which has since worked on poverty alleviation, disaster relief and education programmes around China.
Why him? This year Chung celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Chi Heng Foundation, an organisation he founded to support children and adults affected by Aids in Mainland China. The organisation has funded the education of more than 20,000 children affected by Aids.
That's not all:Chung has also established a variety of social enterprises that employ adults living with HIV who can’t get work elsewhere. Among them is a business that manufactures laundry bags for Marriott and Accor hotels.
15/47CHARLES CHEN YIDAN
Why him? Yidan, who made his fortune as co-founder of internet giant Tencent, supports multiple philanthropic projects, the largest of which is the Yidan Prize. Founded in 2016, the prize annually honours two individuals or organisations who are transforming education. Each laureate receives prize money of HK$30 million, half of which is a cash prize and half of which is put towards future projects.
Why him? Often cited as the richest man in Taiwan, Foxconn tycoon Gou is as famous for his philanthropy as for his astronomical riches. Over the years he has established multiple philanthropic organisations—among them the Yonglin Education Foundation, Yonglin Health Foundation, Yonglin Charity Foundation and Foxconn Education Foundation—and made several huge donations, including a US$450m gift to National Taiwan University Hospital to build a new cancer ward. In 2013, he pledged to donate 90 per cent of his wealth to charity.
17/47CELIA C. HONG
Why her? Hong is chairwoman of Hong’s Foundation, which funds educational programmes around Taiwan, particularly initiatives focused on encouraging reading.
That's not all: In 2018 the foundation launched Tung Chung Art Award, and announced artist Hsu Chia-Wei as the first winner. The annual prize money of NT$1m (about US$32,000) is donated by Hong.
Why him? Chen started his career selling office clocks, then expanded into furniture and electronics, which his publicly traded Aurora Group now sells at more than 1,500 locations around Taiwan and Mainland China. In 2015 Chen decided to throw his support behind small- and medium-sized charities working around Taiwan by launching the Goodwill Award (the Chuanshan Award), which honours eight organisations every year with a NT$12m (about US$388,000) prize each.
Why her? Leading one charity would be enough for most people, but not Chang. At the time of writing Chang leads four organisations, juggling jobs as chairperson of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) Charity Foundation, chairperson of Weiyi Social Welfare Charity Foundation, director of Dunan Foundation and director of the Modern Women’s Foundation. Chang is currently leading the TSMC’s fundraising efforts for families affected by the 2018 Hualien earthquake; so far it has raised more than NT$58m (about US$1.9m).
Why him? Yin, chairman of the Ruentex Group, has been involved in various philanthropic projects since the 1980s. In 2012 he established his biggest project yet, the Tang Prize, an annual award that honours outstanding contributions in sustainable development, biopharmaceutical sciences, sinology and the rule of law. Each laureate receives a cash prize of NT$40m (about US$1.3m) and a research grant of NT$10m.
Why him? This self-made billionaire leaves the running of his Amata Corporation to staff while he spends most of his time writing books that share his tips for business and on leading a simple Buddhist lifestyle. In 1996, he established the Amata Foundation, which supports educational, cultural and environmental initiatives. It also bestows the annual Amata Art Award and Amata Writer Award, which come with US$144,000 and US$33,000 respectively.
That's not all: In 2013, Kromadit packed up his life and led a 40,000km caravan through China, Myanmar, Russia and Kazakhstan to “strengthen international relations.”
Why him? The American-born Thai businessman has built his hotel business, Minor International, into a global conglomerate over the past 30 years. Along the way, he’s also become a global leader in elephant conservation with his Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which was one of the leaders in the fight for Thailand to ban the trade in ivory, which it did in 2017.
That's not all: Heinecke founded the Heinecke Foundation, which provides scholarships to underprivileged children around Thailand and was involved in disaster relief after the 2004 tsunami.
Why him? Forbes says Chearavanont is Thailand’s richest man and his philanthropic giving is correspondingly huge. In the aftermath of the 2013 Sichuan earthquake, he donated RMB20m (about US$2.9m) to aid the communities affected. In 2017, his CP Group gave around PHP10m (about US$190,000) to local community development programmes in the Philippines. Closer to home, he donated THB200m (about US$6m) for the construction of the Bhumisiri Mangkhalanusorn Building at Chulalongkorn Hospital and recently gave THB10m to help mitigate the effects of severe flooding in the south of Thailand.
Why him? The Link family has been at the forefront or philanthropy in Thailand for generations, leading the way by both donating money and establishing organisations. Harald, the current head of the family’s B Grimm Group, is continuing the family’s philanthropic tradition through his extensive monetary and managerial support of the Princess Mother’s Charities Fund Foundation, which was co-founded by his late uncle Herbert.
That's not all: He also makes substantial financial contributions to the arts in Thailand and is a patron of the Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music, and of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra Foundation.
25/47CHAROEN AND WANNA SIRIVADHANABHAKDI
Why them? The Sirivadhanabhakdis’ TCC Group touches almost every area of life in Thailand—it has invested in everything from drinks company ThaiBev to real estate—so it’s fitting that their philanthropy is also nationwide. With the Sirivadhanabhakdi Foundation, the tycoon and his wife provide medical supplies to hospitals around Thailand and have also funded cultural initiatives, such as the restoration of Buddhist murals in Bangkok.
That's not all: The Sirivadhanabhakdis are also behind the ThaiBev Unites to Fight the Cold campaign, which provides blankets to communities in rural areas and has been running for nearly 20 years.
Why him? Kamilius left a successful career in an international consultancy in 2010 to establish Koperasi Kasih Indonesia, a microcredit organisation that aims to lift people out of poverty. To receive a microloan from Koperasi Kasih, individuals have to commit to attending an educational programme that includes training in professional skills, motivational workshops and financial classes that teach the importance of saving and money management.
27/47INTI NUSANTARI SUBAGIO
Why her? Subagio is admired in Indonesian society both as a businesswoman—she’s the president commissioner of luxury concierge service Quintessentially—and as one of the country’s most hands-on philanthropists. In 1998, she founded the For All Nations (FAN) Campus, a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts and people suffering from mental illness. In a country where drug users are often sent to prison, FAN Campus provides a safe, supportive space to rehabilitate—rather than punish—addicts.
Why her? The fashion designer is best known for her range of stylish kebayas (a traditional Indonesian outfit), but this fashionista is also a dedicated philanthropist. In 2003, Avantie partnered with St Elisabeth Hospital to launch the Wisma Kasih Bunda Foundation in Semarang, central Java. The organisation supports children with hydrocephalus, a condition that causes a build-up of fluid in the brain, and helps fund treatment for children with a wide variety of conditions.
That's not all: Avantie has also financed professional training for students and housewives to help them find careers.
Why her? With her organisation We The Teachers, Witdarmono is shaking up education around the country. Since she established the foundation in 2014, We The Teachers has worked with more than 5,000 educators, providing everything from training to curriculum development to help improve the quality of education.
That's not all: Witdarmon’s research has been praised by Unesco and the International Monetary Fund, among other leading international organisations.
Why him? The first Indonesian to sign the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge, by which the world’s wealthiest people commit to donating at least half their fortune to charity, Tahir is one of the country’s most generous donors. He funds several educational and healthcare programmes within Indonesia, has donated US$65 million to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and has given millions of US dollars to support Syrian and Jordanian refugees.
That's not all: In late 2016, Tahir was appointed the first Eminent Advocate in Asia for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
31/47LEONG HOY KUM
Why him? Having successfully expanded his family’s business, Mah Sing Group, Leong also expanded its CSR commitments in 2005 by establishing the Mah Sing Foundation, which supports children around the country through a range of educational and healthcare initiatives. In 2017 the Mah Sing Foundation ran more than 25 different programmes—ranging from English classes for adults to classes for refugee children—benefiting more than 3,200 people.
Why her? For more than 15 years Shamsuddin has been chair of Yayasan Orang Kurang Upaya Kelantan (Yokuk), a support centre in the rural state of Kelantan for people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, blindness, deafness and other conditions. Since it was founded Yokuk has supported or treated more than 4,500 children.
Why him? Yeoh is famous around the world for both his business acumen, as leader of his family’s YTL Corporation, and his philanthropy. A lover of the arts, he reportedly gave Rome’s struggling opera house €1 million in 2015. He also received the Capri Legend Humanitarian Award in 2016. After the passing of his father, Yeoh Tiong Lay, in December 2017, YTL gave donations in his memory worth MYR10m (about US$2.4m) to a series of charities.
Why him? When he’s not busy leading his Berjaya Group—which has holdings in F&B, hospitality and financial services—Tan is known for giving back through the Berjaya Cares Foundation and his own Better Malaysia Foundation, which between them fund everything from Aids medication to English lessons in rural communities.
That's not all: Last year he announced that when he turns 80 he intends to become a full-time fundraiser for humanitarian NGO the Tzu Chi Foundation. He has also signed the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge, which commits him to giving away at least half of his US$800 million fortune to charity.
Why him? Khyra has a lot on his plate, running the Mycron Steel corporation while also acting as chairman of the board of trustees of both The Budimas Charitable Foundation and MAA Medicare Charitable Foundation. Budimas supports more than 30 orphanages around Malaysia, caring for more than 1,500 children, and also funds breakfast for thousands of underprivileged children in government schools. MAA is focused on healthcare, providing high-quality medical services to underprivileged communities.
The next generation: He has passed on his passion for helping children to his daughter, Elana Khyra, who runs her own kindergarten.
Why him? One of Malaysia’s most generous philanthropists, Cheah is the founder of the country’s largest education-focused non-profit, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation. Through the foundation Cheah has donated more than MYR1 billion (about US$240m) to educational initiatives, including scholarships and endowments. Among these are a series of funds at Harvard University that will ensure connections between one of the world’s top universities and Malaysian institutions.
Why him? This media-shy tycoon has donated tens of millions of US dollars to education, the arts, sports and humanitarian causes in Malaysia through his privately owned holding company Usaha Tegas.
That's not all: Having received a scholarship himself as a young man, which allowed him to study at the University of Melbourne, Krishnan also funds a variety of scholarships and educational grants.
38/47ENRIQUE “RICKY” RAZON JR
Why him? Razon has expanded his family’s business, International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI), in many new directions—including boosting its corporate social responsibility programme. With Razon’s guidance, the ICTSI Foundation was instrumental in supplying provisions to hard-hit communities after Typhoon Yolanda swept through the country in 2013. When not responding to emergencies, the foundation builds schools and supports educational and environmental campaigns around the country.
39/47JAIME ZOBEL DE AYALA
Why him? Businessman, photographer and philanthropist Ayala has spent his long career—he’s now in his 80s—expanding the Ayala Foundation, which is best known for preserving and promoting Filipino culture through the Ayala Museum and the Filipinas Heritage Library.
The next generation: Ayala has passed the reins of the foundation to his sons, Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, who are continuing the organisation’s cultural work while also launching educational, youth development and sustainability programmes.
Why her? Medved-Po is the brains behind Generation Hope, an innovative social enterprise that raises money to build classrooms by selling bottled water. Since it was founded in 2010, Generation Hope has built more than 55 classrooms around the Philippines.
That's not all: Earlier this year she was one of the speakers at the Milken Institute Global Conference, as part of the panel on breakthroughs in philanthropy.
41/47DAVID AND DANIEL ZUELLIG
Why them? These cousins are at the helm of the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF), the philanthropic arm of the eponymous pharmaceutical company. The organisation works to improve health services in rural communities around the Philippines by providing advanced training for mayors, healthcare providers and others.
Digging deep: In its 2017 annual report the ZFF revealed that it had worked in 40 of the Philippines’ 81 provinces and that between 2009 and 2017 the Zuellig family pumped more than PHP834 million (about US$15.5m) into the foundation.
42/47HENRY SY SR
Why him? The patriarch of the Sy family, who own retail conglomerate SM Prime Holdings, has donated more than PHP280m (about US$5.2m) to numerous projects led by the SM Foundation and his eponymous foundation. The former is concerned with education and health; the latter is focused on furthering Philippine social development by empowering young people.
Why him? Laurence is the grandson of the late banking tycoon and philanthropist Lien Ying Chow, who in 1980 gave away almost half of his wealth to set up the Lien Foundation, which has been chaired by Laurence since 2009. The foundation’s work continues the patriarch’s commitment to the community to this day, having disbursed some S$120 million (about US$87m) in areas such as aged care, early childhood education, water and sanitation in the past decade alone.
That's not all: In 2015, Laurence co-founded the Asia Philanthropy Circle (he’s the CEO) as a platform for regional collaborations among Asian philanthropists.
44/47LEE SENG TEE
Why him? Seng Tee heads the Lee Foundation, one of Singapore’s largest family foundations, which has donated nearly S$1 billion (about US$722m) since it was founded in 1952 by Lee’s father, Lee Kong Chian. Notable donations include S$150 million to Nanyang Technological University in 2011 for the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine; S$25 million to the National University of Singapore in 2010 for the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum; S$50 million to Singapore Management University in 2004; and S$60 million to build the new National Library in 2003.
Why her? With sister Elizabeth Khoo, Mavis is a trustee of her late father Khoo Teck Puat’s estate. Once Singapore’s richest man, the Khoo patriarch made his fortune in banking, hospitality and real estate. In the past decade, the family’s charitable arm, the Khoo Teck Puat Foundation, and the estate of the late Khoo Teck Puat have jointly donated more than S$360 million (about US$260m) to various causes, including S$100 million to build the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, S$80 million to fund medical research at the Duke-NUS Medical School and S$50 million to build the Khoo Teck Puat—National University Children’s Medical Institute at the National University Hospital, which is nearing completion.
46/47GOH CHENG LIANG
Why him? Goh has interests in real estate, property development and logistics, and his holding company, Wuthelam, has a 39 per cent stake in Japan’s Nippon Paint Holdings, which forms the bulk of his US$6.8 billion fortune. Through the Goh Foundation, which he founded in 1994, the 91-year-old philanthropist supports initiatives in education, medical research and community development.
In 2014, he gave S$50 million (about US$36m) to the National Cancer Centre Singapore—its largest single donation to date—the majority of which will go towards funding Southeast Asia’s first proton therapy facility at the centre’s new premises, which are set to open by 2022 at the Singapore General Hospital campus. The Goh Foundation also underwrites scholarships at several Singapore universities.
Why him? Lim, who owns Thomson Medical Group, donated S$10 million to the Singapore Olympic Foundation in 2010 to set up the SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship, which helps promising young athletes from low-income families achieve their sporting goals. More than 2,094 scholarships worth a total of more than S$5.6 million (about US$4m) have been disbursed to date, and the gift remains the single largest individual donation towards sports development in Singapore.
That's not all: Lim also endowed Nanyang Technological University with S$3 million in 2014 to fund a professorship in peace studies at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies to protect and promote harmony in Singapore.
*Editor's note: Due to several entries featuring multiple people, the numbered list ends at 47 instead of 50.
(See also: Monetary Mindfulness: An Introduction to Impact Investing)