Rally to protest at Sha Tin mall chasing mainland trade

Residents say New Town Plaza serves rich mainlanders more than their needs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 3:37am

Facebook users have joined forces for a rally tomorrow to "reclaim" a Sha Tin shopping mall from mainland visitors.

A page on Facebook titled "Help New Town Plaza" had received more than 3,000 "likes" by yesterday. Rally organiser Wayne Wong said he expected at least 300 people to turn out tomorrow.

Mall tenants have for years been making way for bigger retail players as developer Sun Hung Kai Properties sought to cater for the mainland big spenders. But the pending closure of more than 10 shops in one go appears to be the last straw for local shoppers.

Wong, a 23-year-old university student, said he lived in Sha Tin for more than 20 years and moved out just a few months ago. "When I came back for a visit this month, I saw notices in a row of shops saying they had to move out," he said.

"If a big clothing brand is really opening there, it'd be an attempt to please mainland tourists rather than provide convenience to local residents."

The campaign for New Town Plaza was apparently buoyed by a successful "reclamation" of Sheung Shui MTR station, where officers cracked down on cross-border traders.

One shopkeeper at New Town Plaza said they had heard rumours that an international garment chain would take over their spaces.

Some shoppers were particularly angered by the relocation of a Commercial Press bookstore, which has occupied its current spot since 1991.

When asked why the Commercial Press outlet would move to a smaller location, a staff member - busy packing books for a long queue of people attracted by a 15 per cent discount offer - said: "You'd better ask Sun Hung Kai."

A spokeswoman for the developer said the bookstore was "willing" to move to another location in the mall. Another spokeswoman said the new space was only 5 per cent smaller and offered "a better environment" for Commercial Press.

Some shops are less fortunate. A kitchenware retailer will have to uproot to Yau Tong and a sportswear retailer will move all the way to Yuen Long.

District councillor Wai Hing-cheung said there were pros and cons to a tourist-oriented approach. The mall started redeveloping after a scheme began in 2003 to let individual mainlanders visit the city without the need to join tour groups. Since then, the number of local restaurants had dwindled, Wai said.

"The elderly complain they can't even get a nice place for yum cha," he said, referring to the popular practice of drinking tea and enjoying dim sum.




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