Middleman in Link Reit row denies relaying eviction threat to Hong Kong’s New People’s Party
Economics columnist Simon Lee Chao-fu says he merely offered to help facilitate conversation between both sides
The so-called middleman in a row between Asia’s largest real estate investment trust and one of Hong Kong’s political parties has denied relaying a threat to the latter, claiming on Thursday that he was just trying to facilitate dialogue between the two.
The controversy came to light on Wednesday after New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said she had received a message from the Link Reit that the NPP could lose offices located in properties owned by the trust if she continued to make disparaging remarks about its business practices.
Ip, who is also a member of the Executive Council, a top advisory body to the chief executive, said the threat was relayed to her by her party’s policy research director, Derek Yuen Mi-chang, who in turn heard it from economics columnist Simon Lee Chao-fu.
Link Asset Management, manager of the Link Reit, denied the accusations on Wednesday.
Speaking on two radio programmes on Thursday, Lee stressed that he had not delivered such a threat.
“I noted that [Yuen] had just joined the New People’s Party, and since I had not met him for two to three years, I wanted to congratulate him on his new appointment and find something to chat about,” he said.
“I mentioned that [Ip] talked a lot about the Link Reit and Reit regulations, so if [the party] needed to get in touch with the Link Reit, I could help.”
Lee, who does consulting research projects for the Link, said he offered to help because he had heard that not all the messages passed on to the managers of district malls could be relayed to the headquarters.
The columnist added that he had told Yuen not to alert Ip about the matter before they had further discussed it. He said he was rushing to finish an article that day and told Yuen that they could meet another day to talk more.
But Yuen, who was on the same radio programmes, maintained that Lee had told him to convey the message to Ip that the Link would have no choice but to stop renting units to the party’s district councillors if she continued to criticise the company.
Ip, who went on one of the programmes, defended Yuen, calling him a “kind and honest person”.
The lawmaker has been critical of the trust’s decisions to sell dozens of its shopping malls and wet markets in public housing estates, accusing it of using public assets to maximise profit. The government privatised these publicly owned properties in 2004 through the listing of the Link.