A government crackdown after a deadly industrial building fire has prompted the apparent closure of around a dozen businesses ahead of a deadline to fix safety breaches, while those still in operation are trying to keep a low profile. The deaths of two firemen who battled a mini-storage blaze in June called into question the safety of the city’s factory blocks, which have seen a growing number of establishments engage in non-industrial activities that often are unlicensed or fail to meet fire safety regulations. The Lands Department last month named six industrial blocks that had dangerous goods on their premises. It ordered that all found in breach – learning centres, shops, restaurants and recreational venues among them – comply by August 29. A 14-day grace period is to be given to the landlords, with a failure to vacate possibly leading to repossession of the properties. Deadly Ngau Tau Kok blaze prompts peak body safety reminder That list included Shield Industrial Centre in Tsuen Wan, a 29-storey block home to a yoga centre, two gyms, a theatre and even a Taoist shrine. Another unit suspected of breaching lease terms, a theatre on the 19th floor, appeared closed and no one answered its doorbell. Its Facebook page, which once promoted rental of the venue for mini-concerts and performances, had been removed. Meanwhile, construction workers were removing incinerators believed to be used by the Taoist shrine during rituals. Staff refused to comment. A Companies Registry search revealed there were four directors; neither they nor the landlord could be reached for comment. Eviction looms again for live house Hidden Agenda, a nurturing ground for indie music Other targeted buildings – in San Po Kong, Kowloon Bay, Tai Po, Kwai Chung and Tuen Mun – were either shuttered or were wary of strangers. A gym at Tai Ping Industrial Centre in Tai Po had its shutters lowered, but was actually still open. Staff were letting members in before hastily closing the doors. We’re not doing anything evil or endangering public security anonymous business owner Speaking on condition of anonymity, the owner of one of the establishments in question said it moved in around a year ago to save on high rents in commercial buildings. He admitted his business had been operating without a valid permit or waiver, but felt it was being unfairly targeted. “We’re not doing anything evil or endangering public security here,” he said. “We came here only because of the cheap rent, and there are hundreds of businesses like us elsewhere in Hong Kong. Why are we the first to go?” Currently, businesses that fall outside “industrial and/or godown” use but which are inside industrial buildings are deemed to have breached their land lease. But the owner felt authorities trying to evict businesses in the name of public safety were at odds with efforts to revitalise industrial buildings. Smaller businesses and individuals may apply for a temporary waiver to change the use of their land and building. A common example was factory canteens situated in industrial blocks that may only serve workers from the same building. Chan Kim-on, managing director of Vision Planning Consultants and a veteran town planner, said he supported the public safety drive, contending such businesses bring in “strangers” who are unfamiliar with the building’s structure. Nervous Hong Kong landlords move on fire safety following killer fire In emergencies, he warned, those people might have difficulty escaping through designated routes. Solicitor Raymond Tse Tin-leung said while the government had to repossess units breaching land lease conditions by law, such drastic actions were rarely taken and usually began with orders or summonses that could take up to two years to enforce.