Four buyers who "trusted Li Ka-shing" and paid deposits for suites in Cheung Kong's controversial hotel project appear to have had second thoughts and turned to the police for help.
Between them they bought three units at the Apex Horizon in Kwai Chung in a provisional agreement reached last Wednesday, but it emerged yesterday that they were given what a lawmaker called a "surprisingly short" six days to conclude formal agreements - by tomorrow.
With the government examining sales of the 360 units - the result of a legal loophole allowing hotels to be sold in parts - the buyers demanded a postponement in the contract deadline and asked the developer to clear their doubts as to their "equivocal" ownership rights.
The project is controversial because it is the first time in Hong Kong that a developer has sold hotel suites, classified as commercial property, so buyers do not have to pay stamp duty.
A middle-aged woman investor said: "I trusted Li Ka-shing that this would be OK. But now, the lawyers' advice differed from what Cheung Kong has said.
"I was told I could live there before signing the provisional agreement," she said outside Kwai Chung police station. "But the lawyers have told us afterwards that we couldn't decide [the lessee]."
They were told the suites could be rented out for "short-term leases". "So how long can I lease out? A year?" she asked.
The complainants also said that the lawyers they usually used refused to handle the Apex Horizon transaction "for fear of risks", and they finally approached one of three firms suggested by Cheung Kong.
The woman investor added: "We are so uncertain about what we'll finally get. Cheung Kong must give us a full account of our entitlements before asking us to sign the final agreement."
She and another woman paid HK$200,000 as deposit for a suite costing almost HK$3 million last Wednesday - two days before the government unveiled new cooling measures.
Another unit involved was about 900 sq ft and cost more than HK$4 million.
"This is such a new project," one of the women said. "I'm not sure if I've been cheated."
She also blamed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for inaction. "All he did was merely say they were risky. But he didn't press [Cheung Kong] to do anything to postpone the transactions," she said.
Civic Party lawmaker and barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah said six days between provisional and formal agreements was "much shorter than the usual 14 days".
"The time is needed to check the deeds and seek lawyers' advice," he said.
"But a buyer can always disagree with the condition and ask the vendor to amend it."
In response to the complaints, Cheung Kong asked the buyers to "contact it directly". It said: "The process of contract conclusion has been very smooth."