A real estate developer was criticised this week after allegedly refusing to negotiate a new contract for the venue of a kindergarten in Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong Island, which faces closure in July. The controversy takes place amid rising rents after the opening of a new MTR line.

On Wednesday, however, Hutchison Estate Agents told the media that it would consider delaying “other plans” it had for the venue, and negotiate a renewal of its contract with Good Health Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten.

Good Health Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten Ap Lei Chau South Horizons
Good Health Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten.

Parents received a letter from the Ap Lei Chau kindergarten at the beginning of the week, saying that it had tried to reach Hutchison on multiple occasions since May last year, to negotiate a renewal of the venue contract. The current contract ends on July 31.

However, according to the letter, the company did not reply to the kindergarten.

Hutchison Estate Agents is a subsidiary of Cheung Kong Property Holdings, owned by property tycoon Li Ka-shing.

“This January, we made queries with the Education Bureau,” the letter added. “But because rent is a commercial decision, the Education Bureau also could not intervene.”

Good Health Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten notice letter
The letter to parents. Photo: Southern Buddies via Facebook.

Good Health Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten (Ap Lei Chau) is a private kindergarten located in the South Horizons residential area, founded in 1992. According to the Education Bureau, it had 144 students as of October 2015.

‘Social responsibility’

Ted Hui Chi-fung, a pro-democracy legislator for Hong Kong Island, said that parents had asked him for help. “Some parents have refused [their children] interviews with other kindergartens, because they have already chosen Good Health.”

He also called on Hutchison to think about its conscience and social responsibility: “Don’t turn South Horizons into one large shopping mall with luxury brands and luxury shops.”

Hui later added that he telephoned Education Bureau chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim, who promised to find enough spaces in other schools in the district for the potentially affected students.

許智峯 羅健熙 Lo Kin Hei 柴文瀚 Chai Man Hon Kevin Tsui Yuen Wa
區諾軒 Au Nok-hin 柴文瀚 Chai Man Hon 羅健熙 Lo Kin Hei 吳兆康 @Tsui Yuen Wa

Publié par 許智峯 sur lundi 6 février 2017


However on Wednesday, Hutchison issued a statement, saying it would consider delaying “other plans” that it had for the venue, and negotiate a proposal to renew its contract with the kindergarten.

“We understand the concerns of… the students, parents, South Horizons residents and management regarding the renewal of the kindergarten’s contract,” it read.

However, parents told Apple Daily they feared that in a new contract, the rent would increase greatly, and school fees would rise correspondingly.

South Island line

Community Facebook page Southern Buddies described the kindergarten as a victim of the opening of the MTR’s South Island line, which has increased rents in the area.

south island line
South Horizons station. Photo: MTR.

Last month, charity Hong Kong Dog Rescue appealed to supporters for a new venue to relocate its dog homing centre in Ap Lei Chau, after the landlord of the existing centre doubled its rent.

The South Island line connects four stations in Southern District with Admiralty, and commenced operations on December 28 last year.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.