In a rare interview with the republic’s SPH Media, Li said the former prime minister remained on his mind eight years after his death at age 91.
Li was among global luminaries who featured in a special video about Lee that aired at the two-day Asia Future Summit, which ended on Thursday.
“His determination to overcome obstacles and fulfil his commitments is something worth learning for a lifetime for all of us,” Li said.
“I understood his painstaking efforts, so I immediately agreed and donated money for his cause. It is a great honour for me that it bears Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s name,” said Li, whose Li Ka Shing Foundation has made significant contributions to Singapore.
The business mogul also referred to the close affinity between Singapore and Hong Kong.
“Singapore transformed from a harbour in Nanyang to an international metropolis, and Hong Kong similarly developed from a fishing port into a financial centre,” Li said.
“These two places have many similarities and can learn from each other,” he added, describing the growth path of both cities as “legendary tales”.
Li said he had recently asked an artificial intelligence chatbot on his phone a question about the two cities. “The answer I received was: ‘Singapore and Hong Kong are a mixture of competition and cooperation.’ This answer is quite meaningful,” he said.
Li noted that young Singaporeans perceived Lee as having forged a restraining governance model that needed to be more caring. He underscored that it was important to understand the historical context of Lee’s policies, saying the outcomes for improving people’s livelihoods that the elder statesman achieved during his leadership was admirable.
Li also narrated a lighthearted anecdote involving Lee.
Said Li: “One time during dinner, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and I discussed many views on the economy and business. I said to him, ‘Why don’t you go into business?’ and he replied, ‘Why don’t you go into politics?’ Then we burst into laughter.”
The nearly six-minute video ends with Li saying he missed his “old friend”.