Ip hits columnist with Link 'blackmail' claim

Top News | Sum Lok-kei 7 Dec 2017

New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee yesterday accused columnist Simon Lee Siu-fu of blackmailing her on behalf of Link REIT.

The company denied any involvement and Lee said it was a "misunderstanding."

Ip said she had received some threats from people working for Link REIT "because I have been making some comments critical of [Link REIT's] business practices and the plan to sell more of its commercial assets."

She said Link REIT's public relations officers had tried to invite her to a meal but that she had rejected the offer. "You think a meal and good wine can settle this? It is absurd," Ip said.

In columns published last month by an English-language newspaper, the lawmaker criticized Link REIT over the sale of its properties.

"A columnist called Lee Siu-fu told a scholar working for my party that if Regina Ip won't stop her criticism, they would make trouble for my district councillors," she alleged.

Ip said two of her district councillors have offices at Link REIT-managed malls and she was concerned about their safety.

Ip said Lee was a founder of think-tank Lion Rock Institute, chaired by Nick Sallnow-Smith, who served as chairman of the board of Link Asset Management that manages the Link REIT.

Ip said she was "angry and not afraid" but will not file a report with police.

Instead, she will follow up with the government to ensure Link REIT "sticks to proper business practices."

She said she had for the past month tried to arrange a meeting with Link REIT chief executive George Hongchoy Kwok-lung but failed to do so.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting claimed he was mistreated by the firm and was "lied to" by a "middle- to high-ranking" public relations officer.

He urged Ip to report the incident if she believes it involves blackmail. Practices that threaten lawmakers are unacceptable, unethical and absurd, he said.

Lee denied threatening Ip and said his conversation with the scholar was mostly about real estate investment trust codes.

"I knew their district councillors were trying to communicate with Link REIT and I offered to be the middleman," Lee said.

Lee said he did not use the words cited by Ip.

Link REIT said it was shocked by Ip's accusation.

"Comments chairwoman Ip made through the media on Link REIT operations reflect an incomplete understanding of our firm's situation, so we wish to strengthen communication through various channels," a company spokesman said.

He said Link REIT will seek to clarify the "misunderstanding."


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