Landlords and developers in Central say they will be prepared should the city's main business hub be paralysed by promised protests by the Occupy Central movement. But they have declined to disclose details.
Hongkong Land, the largest landlord in Central with a prime portfolio of 450,000 square metres of grade-A office and luxury retail premises, said it had been monitoring the development of Occupy and preparing for possible scenarios that might impact its building operations.
"We have taken appropriate security measures, and will work closely with government authorities, including the police, if the situation warrants," the firm said in a statement.
One strategy, apparently, is to not have many staff working in Central.
Chew Fook Aun, deputy chairman of Lai Sun Development, with offices at AIA Central, said that only senior management worked in Central.
"It won't affect our business as we can communicate with emails," he said. "And the majority of our staff works in our other office in Cheung Sha Wan. But we have been notified by the property management company that more security staff will be deployed in the building to prepare for the worst-scenario" he said.
Ronnie Chan Chichung, chairman of Hang Lung Properties, whose headquarters is in Central, said more than 90 per cent of its staff were stationed elsewhere. Nevertheless, the firm has prepared for the worst.
"Who does not have a Plan B now? We have less than 100 people working at the headquarters [in Central]. What we need to prepare is to arrange them to work in our other offices spread around in Hong Kong," Chan said in late July.
He played down the impact on the property market, saying the protest would be short-lived.
Cheung Kong (Holdings), whose headquarters is in the 68-storey Cheung Kong Center in Central, said it was "business as usual".
Building tenants include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and the Securities and Futures Commission.
Barclays in July issued a report saying an "unexpected shock" like the Occupy protest could trigger a property market slump.
Justin Chiu Kwok-hung, executive director of Cheung Kong, said it was too early to access the impact. "It will be a blow to our economy if the protest manages to draw hundreds of thousands of protestors to paralyse Central for quite some time. But it will be insignificant if the number of participants is only 10."
Hongkong Land is trying to stay optimistic. "We respect the right of the public to express their views," the company statement said. "At the same time, we hope that any expression of views will respect the rights of fellow citizens and not affect others' day-to-day activities in Central and in other parts of Hong Kong."