My Take

Time for government to act over closure of kindergarten in Tin Shui Wai

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:17am

Can there be a more sickening display of ruthless free-market capitalism and government incompetence than the row over the impending closure of a long-running preschool in Tin Shui Wai?

To be sure, there is plenty of blame to go around.

The clueless management of the private Topkids International Preschool must have known for months that negotiations over lease renewal with the landlord, the listed Fortune Real Estate Investment Trust, were hitting a wall. Yet, its managers made no contingency plans for an alternative temporary site for their students and appeared to be as surprised as anyone that they now face losing the school.

The ruthless and shortsighted executives at Fortune are not kicking the school out because it didn't pay rent. The preschool actually offered to double the current rent of HK$260,000. But Fortune has the gall to say a rival school outbid the preschool by 20 per cent. They seem to have no concept of the cost of reputation damage.

Come on, Justin Chiu Kwok-hung and Justina Chiu Yu, have a heart. The father and daughter are respectively the chairman and deputy chief executive of Fortune. Everyone knows Chiu senior as the right-hand man of tycoon Li Ka-shing, whose Cheung Kong flagship owns 28 per cent of Fortune.

I am sure the Chius never heard of the preschool until the row broke out. But they need to train their executive staff better. Ever heard of such a thing as corporate responsibility? When your group leases premises to a school, your responsibility goes beyond making an extra buck for your shareholders.

Meanwhile, of all the premises in the district, rival kindergarten chain Zenith International Education Foundation deliberately picked Topkids and outbid it. It is now poaching Topkids' students. Is this education or good old capitalist cutthroat competition? Does the school have any morals at all?

Last but not least, the Education Bureau led by the unusually incompetent Eddie Ng Hak-kim just folds its arms, saying it can't do anything because it's a private-sector row. If the Labour Department can mediate between workers and bosses, so can you. Ng, pick up the phone.