A Link Reit campaign to promote 'nostalgic restaurants' at its shopping malls has left a bitter taste for hundreds of internet users who accused Hong Kong's largest retail landlord of hypocrisy.
The sudden criticism was a belated response to the 'Link the Tastes' campaign promoting 'the city's hidden gems of food culture' at traditionally themed restaurants in The Link's shopping malls.
While the campaign had attracted minor criticism since its launch last month, public opposition exploded online yesterday after a protest page on Facebook was set up at noon.
By 8pm, more than 1,000 people had joined the Chinese-language page at www.facebook.com/dislikethelink.
At issue was The Link's perceived role in the demise of small market businesses forced out by soaring rents during the malls' commercial makeover after the real estate investment trust was privatised in 2005.
The company 'first killed the shops, then makes money from their death', read one online comment.
Other posts referred to reports about higher rents at The Link's malls, while some criticised the company for only allowing chain stores in its malls.
Meanwhile, users at the popular Golden Forum site called The Link 'shameless' and criticised those who supported the company's initial public offering seven years ago.
The Link has managed the city's largest retail portfolio since the Housing Authority divested its 180 shopping malls and car parks at housing estates in 2005. It was often criticised for forcing out small tenants by increasing their rents.
Link Reit said last night that the campaign was to attract more people to experience the city's culture in the nostalgic restaurants and to step up their competiveness. The campaign had nothing to do with the shops' rental contracts and that the company valued smaller shops, it said.