Liaison Office denies buy-to-let property investments

March 05, 2019 12:49
The Liaison Office bought 14 flats in The Merton, a high-rise residential complex in Kennedy Town, in late 2016 through its investment vehicle Newman Investment. Photo: HKEJ

An official of Beijing’s Liaison Office said it has never rented out the flats it bought in a private housing estate in Western District for profit as alleged in a media report.

According to government data, Beijing’s main representative office in Hong Kong bought 14 flats in The Merton, a high-rise residential complex in Kennedy Town, in late 2016 through its investment vehicle Newman Investment.

Apple Daily reported earlier on Monday that its reporters found that two of the flats bought by the Liaison Office, including one at The Merton, were rented out to outsiders, rather than being used to house its staff.

Just last week, the office reportedly bought 20 flats in Grand Central, a new housing development in Kwung Tong through Newman for about HK$247 million, making it its biggest purchase in any single project.

The purchases were exempt from the 15 percent buyer’s stamp duty and 15 percent double-stamp duty.

Asked by the Hong Kong China News Agency about the Apple Daily report, an official from the Liaison Office called it baseless, in disregard of the facts and malicious, saying it should be strongly condemned, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Denying that it is engaged in buy-to-let or buy-to-resell investments, the official stressed that all of the 14 flats owned by the office in The Merton are offered to staffers to live in, adding that they did not reveal where they worked or what the property was being used for when asked by Apple Daily reporters out of vigilance and safety concerns.

The official also slammed the reporters for concealing their identity and making false reports with defamation, claiming the office reserves the right to pursue legal action against those responsible for the report.

Responding to media inquiries, Chen Dong, deputy director of the Liaison Office, said in Beijing, where he was attending the "Two Sessions", that the flats in question are purely for the residential needs of office staff. He called the Apple Daily report a distortion of facts.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun asked Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is in Beijing, to talk to the central government about the property purchases of the Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

To also urged the office to review its establishment, give an account of how many flats it owns are currently being rented out to non-staffers, and clarify whether the directors of Newman Investment are acting as private individuals or state representatives.

At a time when many Hong Kong families are struggling to live in tiny spaces, if they have their own homes at all, the Liaison Office should reflect on whether it is necessary to provide its staff with much bigger flats, To added.

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