Hong Kong billionaires' privacy unhinged by gate directive

Fri Jul 29, 2011 4:50am EDT
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HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Hong Kong's billionaires are finding it harder to buy peace and quiet these days.

After years of turning a blind eye, the government this month issued regulations demanding tycoons move the imposing gates of their luxurious estates closer to home, and out of publicly owned land such as that lining the roads in this space-starved city of 7 million people.

Those affected by the order include Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho and Peter Woo, chairman of property and infrastructure focused Wharf Holdings.

"We consider it as a breach of the land lease," said Teresa Sair of the Lands Department.

The Hong Kong authorities appear to be on a drive to appease an increasingly agitated public, frustrated with soaring property prices and the government's cozy relationship with major property developers.

Over the past few months, government officials have targeted individuals who have built houses with "illegal structures" on public land. Lawmakers have also been lambasted for erecting rooftop glasshouses on their homes without permits.

Now the billionaires are taking a hit. The government had set a July 27 deadline for the removal of the offending gates, but the South China Morning Post reported that only two of six targeted tycoons have obliged, or shown a willingness to do so.

The paper said that Woo, of Wharf Holdings, is one of the tycoons who is making preparations to remove gates at his two estates in Sheko, an exclusive beachside district in Hong Kong located on the South side of the island.

Gambling kingpin Ho, however, have yet to comply with the order, as have Sino Land Chairman Robert Ng, Central Development's Chairman Hui Sai-fun, and Tong Yun-kai, president of the Confucian Academy, the paper added.

(Reporting by Farah Master, editing by Miral Fahmy)