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Last Updated: Friday, 17 December, 2004, 14:28 GMT
HK pensioner halts privatisation
By Chris Hogg
BBC correspondent in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's Happy Valley district
Hong Kong's authorities are waiting for Ms Lo's decision

An attempt by Hong Kong's government to raise billions of dollars in the world's largest ever privatisation of public property hangs in the balance - blocked by the objections of a 67-year-old pensioner.

Lo Siu-lang is a small woman with grey hair and thick rimmed glasses who lives in a tiny apartment on a public housing estate.

She has taken on not just the Hong Kong government, but half a million investors and some of the world's top financial firms.

Hong Kong's government wants to transfer $3bn (1.5bn) worth of the housing, car parks and commercial premises it owns to a property trust, which investors can then purchase shares in.

So popular is the proposed sale, it has been oversubscribed 130 times.

Court pressure

But Ms Lo says the deal violates Hong Kong's housing code, and she has been fighting it for weeks in the courts.

When her latest legal challenge failed her opponents tried to pressure the courts to resolve the matter quickly.

The courts refused and granted Ms Lo 28 days for a final appeal to the territory's highest court.

The problem is that the shares are supposed to go on sale on Monday, and many investors have borrowed heavily in the hope of making a quick profit on the first day of trading.

Hong Kong's housing authority, which is in desperate need itself of the revenues from the sale, has warned it will have to scrap the deal if the legal issues are not resolved by Monday morning.

Ms Lo is now in effect holding the authority to ransom, refusing to say whether or not she will continue her fight.

So far she has not said what her decision will be. Meanwhile, the rest of Hong Kong can only watch and wait.


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