Two senior staff at troubled fitness chain California Fitness have been arrested by Hong Kong customs under the charge of violating the Trade Descriptions Ordinance on Monday.

Customs arrested a 57-year-old man, a company secretary, and a 45-year-old woman – a manager. They are suspected of failing to provide services to customers who had paid for fitness club memberships and personal trainer sessions.

California Fitness has been mired in controversy since the indefinite closure of its Whampoa branch last month. A liquidation request is being launched against JV Fitness, which operates the chain. The hearing will take place on August 31.

California Fitness staff arrest
Two senior staff of California Fitness under arrest. Screenshot.

The two arrested individuals have been released on bail pending further investigation.

According to a government press release, the maximum penalty for violating the Trade Descriptions Ordinance is a fine of HK$500,000 and imprisonment of five years. Management staff are liable whether the offence was committed with their consent or it arose due to their neglect, said the release. 

California Fitness worker host union meeting
Coaches and staff working at California Fitness meet to discuss action against the company.

Lawmaker Tang Ka-piu, who represents the Labour functional constituency, convened a meeting of around 300 California Fitness staff on Sunday to discuss an action plan against the gym chain.

Concern groups such as the Hong Kong Recreation and Sports Professional General Union and the Hong Kong Beauty and Fitness Professional General Union were present at the meeting.

After the meeting, Tang said that staff at the troubled gym chain have decided to issue a public letter demanding that California Fitness provide answers regarding the staff’s overdue wages, the company’s financial condition and its future course of action within 48 hours. The group threatened to go on strike if the company fails to meet their demand before the deadline.

California Fitness HK
A California Fitness branch.

Tang said California Fitness staff were concerned that the company would not be able to deliver their wages on July 15 as it had already failed to do so on July 1.

The Labour Department said that investigation regarding cases of overdue payment at fitness centres under JV Fitness is still ongoing. The Consumer Council said they have received 327 enquiries and 128 complaints concerning JV Fitness as of Monday.

Gene Lin is a Journalism and Computer Science student at The University of Hong Kong. He worked as a reporter for the 'LIVE: Verified Updates' during the Occupy Central protests. He is also an editor at HKU's first English-language student paper, The Lion Post.