Sunday, 1 May 2011

Seeing red

If you ever wander though the older districts of the city, you may have spotted large white-on-red lettering posted in windows or on banners across shop fronts and buildings.


I have started noticing more and more of these in my neighbourhood over the past few months. The red phone numbers seem to be creeping across the facades of tong lau (old walk-up) buildings like a fungus. Some of the signs sport a big, cog-shaped logo too.

Unfortunately, it's not the rotary club. It is the doing of 田生地產 (Richfield Realty), an acquisition company. These companies buy up flats in old HK buildings in order to eventually sell the building to property developers. In buildings over 50 years old, if a company buys up 80% of the flats, the remaining 20% of the building's homeowners can be forced to sell by law. This explains the spread of red.

Branch office in Quarry Bay

田生地產's prominent advertising is upsetting a lot of people. The proliferation of large signs can make residents uneasy about the security of their homes and put pressure on owners to sell. They can also scare off potential buyers by giving the impression that the building is 'doomed'.

Slogans, like the one on this banner in Shau Kei Wan contribute to this atmosphere: Richfield congratulates the landlords of this building who have already received the payment for their flat.

田生地產 has been accused of more underhand pressure tactics, too, as Christopher DeWolf describes in this article. I won't go into these here; suffice it to say that company denies the claims and explains on its website that its ultimate goal is to serve the community.

To me, these red flags are yet another sign of  the frantic pace of Hong Kong's urban renewal.


  1. Well done for drawing attention to this. All the buildings they are targeting for acquisition (and then redevelopment) are the older ones which give HK its character.

  2. Couldn't agree with you more. The building that collapsed in Ma Tau Wai last year gave the tong laus a bad name but the large majority of them are structurally sound and as you say, make the charm of HK.

  3. I thought they were advertising apartments for rent.

  4. quite the opposite! They want to get your flat!

  5. Enjoyed your great photos and observations! I also added a link to your blog on mine.