Shop operators up in arms over hefty rent rise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 October, 2008, 12:00am

About 50 shop operators from Lok Fu Shopping Centre in Wong Tai Sin have protested against The Link Reit for increasing rents from HK$30 per square foot to as much as HK$130.

One demonstrator wore a vampire costume and broke rice bowls to depict The Link Reit as a bloodsucker.

The shop operators threatened to go on strike if the real estate investment trust refused to lower the proposed increases.

Their spokeswoman, Ma Lai-mei, said the new rents would be as high as those in popular shopping areas such as Mong Kok.

'How can The Link Reit tell us to pay so much rent?' she said. 'Many of our customers live on welfare and are low-income families. We shop operators cannot afford to pay expensive rent while offering services and selling goods at low prices acceptable to customers.'

The shopping mall is undergoing renovation.

'We demand to have a direct dialogue with the management of The Link Reit and to work out the problem with them,' Ms Ma said.

Liberal Party legislator Vincent Fang Kang, who represents the wholesale and retail industry, joined the protest, urging The Link Reit to freeze rents to help shop operators through the tough financial times.

The Link Reit said it would continue to talk to the operators.