Jade Lam started her first day of the year by clutching a protest sign taped to a skinny bamboo pole and parading with hundreds of others who fear politicians are ruining Hong Kong's image as a global financial capital.
\nThe event that angered the 52-year-old housewife enough to join a demonstration for the first time in her life was a recent botched stock listing for what would have been the world's largest property trust.
\nThe derailed deal -- worth about US$3 billion -- involved the government's sale of 151 shopping centers and 79,000 parking spaces to investors.
\nThe protesters accused opposition lawmakers of sabotaging the listing -- called the Link Real Estate Investment Trust -- by getting a 67-year-old public housing tenant to file bogus lawsuits alleging it violated the housing code.
\n"There will be various bad effects now on Hong Kong's image as an international financial city," said Lam, who was among the half million individual investors who signed up for the offering.
\nJust hours before the stock was to be listed two weeks ago, officials decided to shelve the offering until the court made a final decision about whether the deal was legal. The elderly tenant, whose legal challenge has failed twice, can file one last appeal.
\nThe deal's failure was a huge embarrassment to the government, but opinions are mixed about whether it will hurt Hong Kong's image as a business-friendly place. Some say the controversy will attract attention to Hong Kong's strengths that have long impressed foreign investors.
\n"The case does highlight the independence and robustness of the judicial system in Hong Kong, which we believe is extremely important and is the cornerstone of an international financial center," said Sally Wong, executive director of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association.
\nAlbert Cheng (
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