FactWire published an investigative story on Link yesterday revealing that the real estate investment trust may have breached land lease conditions. Link sent a press release at 4pm today (which was then updated at 5pm) titled ‘Link to Issue Lawyer’s Letter, Reserving Rights to Take Legal Actions’.
FactWire would like to respond as follows:
1. In our story, FactWire mentioned that according to information provided by the Lands Department, only one private car parking space owned by Link had been exempted from its eligibility requirements with a temporary waiver and thus, rentable for non-residents. In the press release, Link said that this was ‘farthest from the truth’ and provided details of 308 approved temporary waivers. However, the information it provided shows that there was indeed only one such application for a private car parking space, which is consistent to our story. The remaining 307 waivers were related to motorcycles and goods vehicles and therefore, irrelevant to our story. Link’s statement has done nothing but proven that our story was factual.
In addition, Link also mentioned that, ‘in catering to community needs’, it had applied and paid for temporary waivers to enable buses to use goods vehicle parking bays. Again, this is irrelevant to, and did not contravene, our story that Link did not ensure the identities of its hourly parking space users are in line with relevant land lease conditions.
2. FactWire completely disagrees with Link’s claim that we have made ‘sweeping conclusions on the whole car park portfolio from an individual case’ which ‘amounts to speculative, misleading and biased reporting that shows a lack of legal knowledge and factual basis’.
From this August to early October, FactWire had visited 192 public estate car parks owned by Link that offer hourly parking and studied 146 corresponding land leases. We also conducted detailed investigation into the relevant land lease terms, Link’s management and operation of its car parks, as well as its temporary waiver applications to the Lands Department. Furthermore, we consulted a lawyer who specialises in land law, surveyors and a former senior management member at Link before the story went to press.
3. FactWire had approached Link, its car park management companies, the Lands Department and the Development Bureau for comment before the story went to press. On 3 October, two days before we published the story, we contacted Link asking five questions: whether Link’s operation of its car parks had breached relevant land lease conditions, whether it had adopted all practical measures to ensure its hourly parking spaces are only being used by qualified persons, whether it would apply for the relevant temporary waivers for more than 10,000 hourly parking spaces it currently provides, and whether it would cancel the ‘MTR park and ride scheme’ at Tin Shing Car Park and the ‘long-stay parking privilege’ at Yat Tung Car Park.
Our questions were met with a terse response from Link on 4 October, which said that it had ‘clearly stated in the fee tables that only certain specified persons are allowed to park’, and that users of the ‘MTR park and ride scheme’ and ‘long-stay parking privilege’ must ‘meet the eligibility requirements specified in relevant land leases and deeds of mutual covenant which are stated in the fee tables and the terms and conditions for the relevant discount schemes.’ Link did not answer all of our questions, and we have accurately quoted and reported on its response.
FactWire deeply regrets the unfounded and false allegations made by Link which, not only did not respond to public concerns, but were based on information irrelevant to our story. The public estate car parks purchased by Link from the Housing Authority were originally meant to serve local residents, so the public has every right to know whether its operation complies with relevant land lease conditions, and whether it should pay a huge sum of waiver fees to the government. FactWire therefore initiated this investigation, which was conducted in a responsible and rigorous manner. The content of the story has been carefully verified and is able to withstand any challenge.
Note: Below is the press release sent by Link on 6 October (updated version at 5pm)
Link to Issue Lawyer’s Letter, Reserving Rights to Take Legal Actions
Regarding the erroneous report issued to news media by FactWire on 5 October 2017 titled “Questions raised over Link’s ten thousand hourly parking spaces; may have dodged hundreds of millions in waiver fees by letting to unqualified persons”, Link intends to seek redress for the reputational damage arising from the misstatements carried in the report.
Link reiterates that in operating its car parks, it has been strictly abiding by the provisions of the relevant land lease and the deed of mutual covenant. The report’s allegation that Link has paid waiver fee for one case only is farthest from the truth.
To cater for the actual circumstances and to meet community needs, Link has 93 applications for temporary waivers approved by Lands Department in relation to car parks as of September 2017. The majority of these involve changing the numbers and types of parking spaces to be provided, and allowing some parking spaces to be used by non-residents of the respective estates or by those not specified in the land leases. For details, please refer to the following:
Details of approved temporary waivers in respect of non-residents using the car parks
Number of parking bays involved: 308
Types of vehicle:
Goods vehicle: 16
Private Car: 1
Since no provision for bus parking is made in the land lease, Link has, in catering to community needs, also applied for temporary waivers and paid the waiver fees to enable buses to use goods vehicle parking bays. There are currently about 400 goods vehicle parking bays for which waiver applications have been approved by the Lands Department, allowing parking by school buses and buses serving people with disabilities and welfare organisations. Separately, Link has received approval for its waiver application to add parking spaces for 140 motorcycles.
The said report shows an ill-informed understanding of car park operations and management. As car parks are subject to their respective lease provisions, which vary from case to case, making sweeping conclusions on the whole car park portfolio from an individual case amounts to speculative, misleading and biased reporting that shows a lack of legal knowledge and factual basis.
With reference to land lease provisions, we have shown the user eligibility requirements on fee boards prominently displayed at our car park entrances, which is in line with industry practices adopted by most car parks in Hong Kong. We have requested the staff of our car park operators to strictly follow those requirements, and will remind them again to strictly adhere to the requirements when giving information to visitors.