Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip says she was threatened by the real estate investment trust Link REIT, after she voiced criticism of the company. But the firm and a columnist named by Ip have denied the accusations.
Ip had been critical of the company over a recent HK$23 billion plan to sell-off 17 local shopping centres at public housing estates.
She said that newspaper columnist Simon Lee, a founding member of libertarian think tank the Lion Rock Institute, had passed on a threatening message through party member Derek Yuen. Yuen is a scholar working for Ip’s New People’s Party. Ip claims that Lee has a working relationship with Link.
“[He said] If Regina Ip would not let go her criticisms, they would make trouble for my district councillors, and I do have two district councillors renting Link’s housing units, so I am very concerned and I will follow up with the government… to make sure the Link stick[s] to proper business practices,” she said, adding that Yuen’s informed her in tone that appeared “worried.”
The two district councillors were renting offices at the Sam Shing Commercial Centre in Tuen Mun and Tsui Lam Shopping Centre in Tseung Kwan O.
‘I will not stop’
Ip said she has a recording but she will not make it public and will not report it to the police for now: “They can’t really threaten me, and I will not stop criticising the Link.”
She said Link sent public relations representatives to speak to her, and asked a person unrelated to Link to apologise to her and buy her meals, but she refused: “I despise such acts. Do they think they can resolve my criticism with good food and wine? This is ridiculous.”
Nicholas Robert Sallnow-Smith, chair of the Lion Rock Institute, was the chair of the Link. Ip accused Lee may have been good friends with top level of the Link.
She said she has been calling the Link Chief Executive George Hongchoy every week but he refused to meet her. She claimed Hongchoy only sent public relations representatives, or “found someone at the South China Morning Post to criticise her.” She said: “These are hideous methods.”
Ip said the Transport and Housing Bureau and the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau should monitor Link closely to understand whether it had fulfilled their duties to provide necessary facilities to the public.
In response, Simon Lee said he has never uttered the words described by Ip. He said it was a friendly discussion and he hoped to be a middleman so that the New People’s Party and the Link can communicate.
Lee said he conducted policy analysis for the Link such as risk analysis for the implementation of the Competition Ordinance, the chief executive’s policy address and land planning: “I think there was a misunderstanding, I was not speaking on behalf of the Link.”
“I have never received money from the Link to do lobbying. Every public statement I made was based on my ideals of the free market.”
Lee also said that – since 2011 – he had stopped participating in the Lion Rock Institute.
The company said in a reply to HKFP that it has been communicating regularly with staff members of the New People’s Party.
“In view of the recent misguided opinions of Link expressed by Mrs Regina Ip, we have stepped up communications with the Party through additional channels,” it said. “We are shocked by the allegation made by Mrs Ip today as we have never relayed to the Party through any individuals the messages she was referring to.”
“For years, we have been maintaining good relationship with various political parties, and working closely with them on local matters and community services. Going forward, we will further enhance communication with the parties and community groups, with a view to strengthening relationship, dispelling misconceptions, and providing comprehensive information on a timely basis.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting also said Link’s public relations officials had lied to him.
Lam said he participated in a peaceful protest at a Sha Tin shopping mall of operated by Link a few months ago. The day after the protest, he was told that Link will not meet with the party because of the demonstration, after the firm reached an agreement with the pro-democracy camp.
But Lam said he found out there was never such agreement: “That’s why I am not shocked by Mrs Ip’s case.”
He said he also refused treats offered by the Link.