A top adviser to the Hong Kong government has accused Asia’s largest real estate investment trust of threatening to evict members of her party over critical comments.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said on Wednesday the Link Reit, through a middleman, told her members of her political party may lose offices located in properties owned by the trust, if she continued to make disparaging remarks about its business practices.
The Link promptly denied the accusation and the middleman, economics columnist Simon Lee Chao-fu, said he had never delivered such threat.
Ip, who founded the New People’s Party and is a member of the Executive Council, a top advisory body to the chief executive, said the threat was relayed to her by her party’s policy research director, Derek Yuen Mi-chang, who in turn received the message from Lee.
“Because I have been making some comments critical of the Link’s business practices … recently I have received some threats from people working for the Link,” Ip said.
“[Lee] said … ‘if Regina Ip would not let go of her criticism, they would make trouble for my district councillors’. I have two district councillors renting units in the Link’s [shopping malls], so I am very concerned.”
Ip, who is also a lawmaker, said she did not know what Lee’s relationship with the Link was, but pointed out that the think tank Lion Rock Institute, co-founded by Lee, is now chaired by former Link chairman Nicholas Sallnow-Smith.
She added that the Link’s public relations people had tried to apologise to her through a third person and invite her for a meal, but she did not accept.
Vowing not to stop her criticism, Ip said she would not rule out making a case to the police and would follow up with government officials toensure the Link “stops making trouble” for members of her party.
Ip was critical of the Link’s decision to sell dozens of its shopping malls and wet markets in public housing estates, accusing it of using public assets to maximise profit. The government privatised these publicly owned properties in 2004 through the listing of the Link.
Yuen said Lee had engaged him in a private chat at an event organised by Uber and New People’s Party lawmaker, Eunice Yung Hoi-yan.
During the chat, Yuen said, Lee told him that if Ip continued to criticise the Link, it could choose not to lease its properties to her party members.
But a spokesman for Link Asset Management, the manager of Link Reit, said: “We are shocked by the allegation by Mrs Ip today as we have never relayed to the party through any individuals the messages she was referring to.”
He added that Ip’s comments about the Link’s business reflected her “misguided opinion” about the company, which wished to enhance communication with her party through different channels.
Lee said he never said anything about the tenancy of offices of the party’s members.
He said during the discussion with Yuen he only offered to help the party’s district councillor to get their concerns about the Link across to the company’s management.
“I did not say the Link could take back their offices,” Lee said. “I did not know the party had members renting Link property.”
He added the Link had not asked him to deliver any messages to individuals.
Lee said he wondered whether there was any misunderstanding and said he had reached out to Yuen and Ip to clarify the issue.
Ip said she would not question Yuen, who she called honest, and that the Link and Lee should go to the Legislative Council to give their explanations.