Hong Kong business will be harmed if the government takes back Fanling golf course for housing development, said the convener of a group of golf players, calling the proposal “absurd.”

A partial development of the golf course – using 32 out of 170 hectares for housing – was suggested by the government’s Task Force on Land Supply, in a report submitted at the end of December.

Old trees in the Fanling golf course. Photo: Citizen News.

“Many bankers and stock analysts like to play golf. They often talk about business slowly, during four-hour golf games,” said Kenneth Lau, who convenes the Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers, on commercial radio on Wednesday. Lau is a professional golf commentator.

“When some banks interview candidates, they don’t do it in the office, they conduct the interviews at the golf course… Because, in those four hours, they can look at how [candidates] play, as well as their character, views on current affairs, and so on.”

The Alliance, which is made up of golf players, sports teams and celebrities, was formed in February last year while the government was looking into redeveloping the course.

Lau said the redevelopment could hinder business in Hong Kong, as the lack of a good golf course in the city might make international companies opt against having their Asia headquarters in the city.

“If [international company executives] have to move to Asia and pick a place to live, they have to think whether there are these facilities,” he said.

Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers Convener Kenneth Lau Ka-lok.

Lau added that a poverty-stricken country such as India would not conduct a public consultation into whether to take back a golf course: “Have you been to Mumbai or New Delhi? Their caddies don’t have shoes. They have worse poverty issues. But how can they keep a golf course for more than 100 years? Is Hong Kong worse at handling such issues?” Lau said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan, also speaking on the radio programme, said Lau’s arguments were “quite funny.”

“It is no surprise that people discuss business when playing golf. But it is not reasonable to say they can only talk business at the golf course, and not other places… It’s not a convincing argument. Business people are so smart, and they do business so well, don’t tell me that without the golf course, without the catering service, then they can’t do business. I believe many residents will find this argument very funny.”

Andrew Wan.

Wan said mainland China has stopped building golf courses, and that the Singaporean government has been redeveloping golf courses on government land for housing in recent years, after their leases had expired.

“This piece of government land [Fanling golf course] has been leased out for more than 100 years – who owes whom?” Wan said.

Wan also said it was feasible to conserve around 100 ancient trees within the golf course.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that the government will take a serious look at the report by the Task Force on Land Supply.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.