The straw that could hurt Camel Paint Building

August 30, 2023 09:51
Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Where in Hong Kong can one find this secret shopping paradise?

According to Hong Kong Tourism Board, it is “a huge multi-block outlet shopping complex where people flock to find the latest cosmetics and fashion — along with wine, craft beer, camping gear and pretty much anything else you can think of”.

This treasure-hunting spot is the Camel Paint Building, which stole the media limelight after a famous rice noodle shop Kwong Wing Mixian was ordered to shut down because it did not have the required restaurant license.

Kwong Wing is one of the four restaurants at the Camel paint Building Block 3, but accordingly, there are at least 12 eateries still open for business, although only two are licensed factory canteens, according to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn Hon-ho said the Lands Department was enforcing the law because the building can only be used for industrial and storage purposes and Kwong Wing breached the uses specified in the land lease.

The news sent shocking waves not just because it appeared to be a politically driven action given Kwong Wing is a famous yellow eatery, but also because it has wider economic implications for hundreds of restaurants inside the old industrial buildings in districts like Kwun Tong and Kwai Chung.

Thanks to these operators who bring in creative ideas and cuisines and take advantage of the relatively cheaper rentals, workers in the neighborhood are able to enjoy decent and cheap food for years.

As time goes by, this unique vertical shopping centre becomes not just a workers’ paradise but also a famous tourist destination.

This is exemplified in the praise from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, which rightly described, “What makes Kwun Tong so exciting is how the new is playing with the old. Inside its old industrial blocks, there are designers, musicians, entrepreneurs and artists, making this one of Hong Kong’s most creative districts.

The timing of the order could not be worse as Hong Kong is still struggling to boost up its economy in the post-pandemic period. Chief Executive John Lee ka-chiu is desperate to find ways to stimulate domestic spending as more locals have been going across the border for consumption since the second quarter.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po came up with the idea of rejuvenating the night economy but only met with a lukewarm response from the business sector which is concerned the suggestion would worsen the labour shortage problem and even hurt the day business.

There is no question the government is enforcing the law in the industrial building although it would likely kill many businesses and upset many people. But I doubt if the leaders in the SAR know how to push the right button to stimulate the local economy.

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EJ Insight writer