Top Hong Kong snooker player Marco Fu has slammed the government’s refusal to lift a time limit on when people aged under 16 are allowed to use licenced billiard establishments, with a lawmaker saying that some thought the policy hindered the development of the sport.

Fu’s comments on Friday came after the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) told lawmaker Kenneth Fok that it would not lift the time limit for people aged under 16 when entering licenced billiard establishments in order to “protect immature persons.”

Snooker player Marco Fu competing at the Hong Kong Masters 2022. Photo: Hong Kong Masters 2022.

The time limit was also imposed to avoid youngsters aged under 16 “staying in billiard establishments after 8pm, which will affect their studies and cause adverse effects,” the LCSD’s response to Fok on Wednesday read.

“Besides, some of the billiard establishments operate mahjong rooms and bars, which may also affect those under the age of 16.”

The lawmaker asked whether the department would consider lifting the ban, as some said that the requirement “limited the participation of young people in the billiard sports” and “created the adverse labelling of the billiard sports as undesirable activities.”

Lawmaker Kenneth Fok. File photo: HKFP.

Currently people aged under 16 cannot enter licenced billiard premised from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m., and those wearing school uniforms are denied entry at any time.

‘Contradictory’

Fu, who came second in the Hong Kong Masters tournament held in October this year, said that the government’s policies were contradictory.

“Why are authorities encouraging citizens to watch the Masters on one hand, and on the other hand limiting the time that teenagers can use billiards premises, resulting in billiard sports being labelled as ‘unhealthy sports’?” Fu’s Facebook post on Friday read.

The Hong Kong snooker player set up the city’s first training centre for children two years ago, and said on Friday that the image of the sport had improved in recent years.

“Why can’t the government let billiard sports be reborn in Hong Kong when they can give rehabilitated offenders one more chance?” Fu’s post read.

“It is a shame that the LCSD seems to be going the other direction… limiting the time that teenagers could use billiard premises, and also thinking that billiards has a negative impact on the younger generation,” wrote Fu.

“[I] cannot understand these sort of contradictory actions.”

Final of the Hong Kong Masters 2022 on October 9, 2022. Photo: Hong Kong Masters 2022.

Hong Kong Masters 2022 was one of the city’s first large-scale international sporting events since the easing of Covid-19 social-distancing measures.

The finals of the tournament, where Fu competed against world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, attracted over 8,500 people at the Hong Kong Coliseum, breaking the record for the largest audience in the World Snooker Tour tournament history.

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung and former chief executive Carrie Lam were among the high-profile figures who attended the games.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.