Rich Beijingers take on Hong Kong developer

BEIJING: When wealthy Beijingers bought flats in one of the city’s most exclusive apartment complexes, they claim they weren’t told a four-lane highway would be built beneath their windows.

Now hundreds of them are threatening legal action against secretive Hong Kong billionaire Hui Wing-mau, the founder and chairman of the Shimao Group.

The residents of Shimao Olive Garden say they will sue the property tycoon – also known as Xu Rongmao – unless his Shimao Property company helps stop construction of the highway.

The block, with its exclusive views over the Olympic National Park, is considered among the five most desirable places to live in the capital.

“We were duped into buying our homes because Mr Hui’s company did not disclose the land around our complex was subject to future development,” said Ruben Liu, a financial investor who is spearheading the residents’ protest.

“We stand to have our quality of life ruined by an expressway and will lose millions of yuan because our properties will drop in value.”

Peter Wong, an American business owner married to a Chinese national who is also co-ordinating the campaign, said: “We have been cheated. We were led to believe by the Shimao Group that our homes were built on protected green belt. But we have been given government documents that claim the Hong Kong developer was made aware that future construction had been approved and was likely. You don’t expect such deception from a Hong Kong company.”

A spokeswoman for the Shimao Group in Hong Kong said the company’s Beijing office had been in contact with the residents.

“It’s the first we have heard about this issue at headquarters [in Hong Kong]. We are investigating the complaints and will work with the residents for a solution,” she said.

More than 100 residents staged a protest this month, unfurling a large banner calling for a halt to construction and for the Shimao Group and Beijing government “to protect our rights”.

They also used a 40-strong fleet of cars – including Maseratis, Ferraris and Mercedes-Benz – adorned with protest stickers to block construction vehicles and halt work for several hours.

A poster campaign around the complex calls on its 6,000 affluent residents to take action. It also calls on them to pour funds into a legal war chest in readiness for a court showdown with Hui, a justice of the peace who is ranked sixth on the latest Forbes China 400 Rich List with a net worth of US$3.85 billion (RM13.17 billion). – South China Morning Post

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