(AFP) - Thousands of real estate agents took to Hong Kong's streets Sunday in protest at government efforts to curb soaring property prices, saying new transaction taxes and other measures are threatening their business.
"There are 37,000 agents in Hong Kong and there were only 3,000 transactions last month," said Raymond Ho, a spokesman for the rally organisers.
"The policies have frozen the market. A lot of small property agent firms will close in the future," he noted.
Organisers said 23,000 joined the rally while police put the turnout at 5,500. Protesters chanting slogans marched through the busy Causeway Bay shopping district before assembling at the government headquarters at Admiralty.
Home prices in the crowded city have risen by 120 per cent since 2008, and by more than 30 per cent from their previous peak in 1997.
A 900-square-foot (81 sq metre) apartment in the middle-market Tai Koo Shing estate sold for more than HKê10 million (USê1.29m) last year, after being priced at about HKê3 million in 2003.
Prices in the luxury market have been pushed up by wealthy buyers from mainland China.
Hong Kong residents have also been investing in property because the local currency is pegged to the US dollar and bank interest rates are lower than inflation.
Officials say the measures to cool the market, in the form of extra stamp duties on some purchases, are aimed at stemming short-term speculative inflows.
They have so far had little effect in driving down prices but sales have dropped off dramatically.