Hong Kong’s government has apologized to tourists who were kicked out of a hotel that was taken over by a city bank due to an unpaid loan.
Dozens of bewildered visitors from across Asia, Australia and Europe were ordered to leave the hotel after Bank of East Asia (BEA) took possession of the property on Wednesday.
“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and unhappiness caused to the tourists,” Au King-chi, Hong Kong commissioner for tourism, told reporters.
“We should have set up a counter at the hotel two or three hours after the incident took place to provide information to tourists on the prices and availability of hotel rooms nearby and arrange for transfer.”
The guests were evicted following a prolonged battle between BEA and Labour Buildings, the company that runs the hotel, over an unpaid 80 million Hong Kong dollar ($A10.79 million) loan.
Labour Buildings, a former investment arm of the Taiwan’s Kuomintang political party, said it had been originally granted the loan to curry favour with the party 10 years ago, the South China Morning Post reported.
The company issued a statement condemning BEA, saying the bank’s actions were harmful to the tourism industry of the south Chinese city.
“Under no circumstances can the Bank of East Asia and the bailiffs drive hotel guests away. The bank’s right to possession does not mean it can cold-bloodedly drive away hotel guests,” it said.
The hotel would offer refund to guests who had already paid for their bookings, the statement added.
A spokeswoman for Bank of East Asia told AFP it had no comment to make.
“How could something like this happen in Hong Kong?” said a woman from mainland China who identified herself as Li, according to the Post.
She only discovered the problem when she arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday evening with her three teenage daughters and was told she could not stay in the Tatami Hampton Hotel, situated in the bustling Mongkok area of the city.
A notice posted in the hotel lobby said that it had been taken over by lawyers representing the bank and the bailiff pursuing a court order, the report said. TV images showed the doors to the hotel bolted closed.
Hong Kong, which styles itself as “Asia’s World City”, spends millions of US dollars every year attracting tourists from the mainland and across the world.
However, it was hit by a string of tourism scandals last year, when visitors on cheap package deals, often from mainland China, were forced to visit certain stores and strongly encouraged to buy goods before being allowed to leave.