Hong Kong faces wave of layoffs, store closures

HONG KONG • More than 5,600 retail jobs could be lost and thousands of stores shut down over the next six months, as pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong continue to disrupt sales during the crucial festive period.

About 30 per cent of respondents in a survey by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association said they will cut jobs, while 43 per cent said they cannot continue to operate beyond six months.

"If cash flow doesn't improve and landlords don't help, there will be a wave of layoffs and business shutdowns," Ms Annie Tse, the association's chairman, said in a press briefing on Monday. "This will be the worst ever in history."

The poll, which was released on Monday, interviewed 176 retailers, covering 4,310 stores and 89,700 employees.

The anti-Beijing demonstrations, which started in June, have seen both peaceful mass marches as well as violent actions. Radical protesters have shut down transport networks, vandalised mainland-linked businesses and seized university campuses.

Hong Kong's economy has slid into a recession and the pain has rippled across the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors.

The Li Ka Shing Foundation has announced a donation of HK$1.01 billion (S$175.5 million) in a bid to help battered entrepreneurs in Hong Kong.

The donation from the Hong Kong-based charitable organisation, founded by the city's most prominent tycoon Li Ka Shing, who came under withering attacks from mainland China and pro-Beijing forces in Hong Kong over his comments on the ongoing demonstrations, will benefit 28,000 small and mid-sized enterprises.