Activists protest against 'crazy' rent rise in Tin Shui Wai market

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 August, 2007, 12:00am

Activist group Link Watch protested yesterday at a Tin Shui Wai market against the Link Management's rent increase, which they said had forced another shopkeeper there out of business.

Ma Wai-piu, who has been running the Kam Hing Hang grocery stall for seven years, will move out of the market on September 3.

'Small shopkeepers like us have no bargaining power and no way to fight back,' Mr Ma said. 'The Link sheds its responsibilities by kicking the ball to its contractor [Modern Market Management].'

The stall operator said he was paying about HK$20,000 a month when the market was under the Housing Authority's management. But when The Link took over in 2005, this was raised to HK$34,000.

Since February last year, he said he had been disputing a HK$38,000 rent demanded by Modern Market Management.

Mr Ma was among a group of shopkeepers who were taken to court last year after they refused to pay new rents imposed by Modern Market Management.

The company's lawyer asked the District Court to issue eviction orders on six shopkeepers.

But the judge refused to pass an eviction order and said the disputes could not be resolved without a full civil trial.

Most of the 58 Chung Fu market vendors had rent rises of 20 to 30 per cent imposed last February.

Shopkeeper Au Pak-keung faced an increase from about HK$29,000 a month to HK$45,000. He had been disputing the new rent and moved out in June.

'I had been doing business here for six years but the rent rise was crazy,' Mr Au said.

Mr Ma, who has been heading the Chung Fu Market Shopkeepers' Rights Association, called on the government to take over The Link.

A Link Management spokesman said the disputes between Modern Market Management and Chung Fu market shopkeepers were being handled by the court.

Money spinner

The Link owns 180 shopping centres and car parks in public housing estates

In the six months to September last year it announced underlying profits (in HK dollars) of $702m