A pro-democracy shop in Tsuen Wan has scrapped plans to become a polling station in this weekend’s primary election for democrats after the property managers warned their participation could violate the tenancy agreement.

Located inside Citywalk shopping mall, Sogno Gelato is known for serving “tear gas flavoured” gelato and offering support to protesters last year. Its owners wrote on Facebook that at around 7 pm on Wednesday, they received a letter from Sino Group requesting they scrap plans to help host the primaries.

Sogno Gelato
Sogno Gelato. Photo: Wikicommons.

The letter cited a clause in the agreement mandating owners to use the shop only for the “retail sale and display of gelato” and related products.

“We would consider usage of the Premises as a polling station a breach of the permitted use under the Tenancy Agreement,” it added.

The primaries are intended to select pro-democracy candidates to run in September’s legislative election. They were organised by law professor Benny Tai, ex-lawmaker Au Nok-hin, the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute and political group Power for Democracy. There are set to be 250 polling stations.

Sogno Gelato wrote that owners sought legal advice and consulted Tai and Tsuen Wan District Councillor Lau Cheuk-yu before deciding to pull out: “Our shop extremely regrets being unable to serve Hong Kong people,” it read. “Thank you to everyone for your continued support.”

HKFP has contacted Sino Group property company for comment.

District councillors warned

The Housing Authority (HA) on Friday sent out a mass letter saying all district councillors were barred from using their offices as polling stations or for any purposes other than related to district council activities.

district council election 2019 november 24 (9) (Copy)
Lek Yuen Estate, Shatin. File photo: May James/HKFP.

It added the HA may take action against district councillors found to have violated terms in their rental contracts, including use of their units for purposes other than those stated in the agreement. It also urged them to avoid organising events that would attract large crowds, citing public health concerns arising from the coronavirus outbreak.

The letter referenced a press release on Tuesday in which the Home Affairs Bureau warned district councillors who use their offices for purposes unrelated to their original purpose cannot reimburse their expenses.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.