Heavy police presence around North Point’s City Garden Hotel, which has stopped taking reservations and stuck frosted film over its windows and doors, is raising suspicions that the building is being converted into another base for Beijing’s national security office.
A representative from the hotel’s customer service team told Coconuts Hong Kong over the phone on Friday that the hotel has been “under renovation” since early August, and that it is not known when it will reopen.
Around noon, several private cars were parked outside the hotel, though there were no police vehicles or uniformed officers. A Mandarin-speaking group of four to five people were seen leaving the building.
The lobby’s side door was also blocked off, and a man stood guard by the only entrance that remains open. He told a Coconuts reporter that the hotel is being renovated, and that it is not open to the public.
When asked why there is no notice or bulletin outside the hotel about the maintenance, he said he is “here at the main door” to stop anybody who comes close.
But there did not appear to be any construction workers, construction gear, or signs that renovation work was underway behind the frosted glass doors.
A taxi was also spotted dropping off a man and a woman, both of whom went into the lobby.
North Point residents say they have observed groups of police officers patrolling the hotel’s adjacent street in recent days, and police vans and unknown vehicles parked for hours at a time. Some say that they have also caught security guards discreetly filming passerbys.
City Garden Hotel is located in a quiet, residential part of North Point, tucked behind main roads and close to shopping malls mostly frequented by those living in the area.
Pictures taken Thursday night show some rooms in the four-star hotel mysteriously lit, even though it supposedly is not accepting guests. Online booking sites, including Agoda and hotels.com, indicate that the property is not currently available for reservations. People who made bookings earlier were also informed by the hotel that they would be canceled.
The hotel’s three restaurants, the customer service representative said, are also closed.
Jocelyn Chau, an Eastern district councillor who serves the City Garden area, said she received numerous reports from residents about a large number of police officers near the hotel on Thursday night. When she went to see for herself, she noticed groups of three or four officers standing together outside the hotel and around the block.
Chau asked the officers if they were responding to an incident involving nearby residents or businesses, and they said no. When pressed if the heavy police presence was related to the hotel, an officer said it was “not convenient” to answer.
“The hotel rooms are not available but there are people living in them,” Chau said in the video. “So who are they?”
There had earlier been reports that staff at the hotel were dismissed and that plans were underway for it to be refurbished into another office for national security agents—rumors that residents fear hold water, especially as they observe more and more unknown men coming in and out of the quiet neighborhood.
Sino Hotel Groups, which City Garden Hotel operates under, has not responded to Coconuts HK at the time of writing.
Shortly after Beijing’s national security legislation came into effect in Hong Kong last month, authorities within days inaugurated the Office for Safeguarding National Security at the Metropark Hotel in Causeway Bay.
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