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Li Ka-shing

Shop owners protest over failed Guangzhou toy hub

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2012, 12:00am

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Police arrested five people after angry mainland and Hong Kong shop owners protested at the Cheung Kong Center in Central yesterday over the failure of Li Ka-shing's Guangzhou toy hub.

Three men and two women were arrested after about 70 mainland shop owners staged a protest, carrying banners that read 'Pay back our hard-earned money'.

Some of the protesters lay across the exit of the car park at the building, the headquarters of Li's Cheung Kong (Holdings).

A clash ensued with security staff after they refused to leave the driveway. A policewoman and three male security guards were slightly injured.

The protesters accused the company of mismanagement of the 32-hectare mall in Huangpu district and demanded compensation.

The 1.5 billion yuan (HK$1.83 billion) hub is owned by Guangzhou International Toys and Gifts Centre - a joint venture between Li's Cheung Kong and subsidiary Hutchison Whampoa - which holds a 60 per cent stake, and the Guangzhou International Toy Centre. The venture announced the project in 2003, and vowed to turn it into the world's biggest toy and gift hub.

But about 800 shop owners felt cheated a year after the first phase of the hub - the wholesale mall - opened in September 2005, as they said it had become desolate. Other proposals, including an arena for toy expos and a research and development centre for phases two and three, never materialised. The shop owners were incensed when two apartment blocks where built instead. Some started negotiating in March for compensation from the joint venture.

Guangzhou International Toys and Gifts Centre said some of the traders' products failed to meet European Union standards, and more than 100 shops never opened because the owners focused on property investments instead.

It said the next two phases included shopping malls, hotels and commercial-apartment buildings. It said a renovation was planned as a promotion for the mall.