The public consultation on land supply, spearheaded by the Task Force on Land Supply, has been underway for weeks already.
Yet it appears all the stakeholders taking part in “the big debate” have been able to somehow justify their demands, and nobody is willing to budge an inch, let alone find a common ground.
For the opposition groups, the “ultimate option” is for the government to take back the Fanling golf course in order to build new homes.
The Fanling golf course is “guilty” in two respects: first, a small bunch of rich people have been occupying a large piece of land just to play golf whereas hundreds of thousands of poor families are living in subdivided flats of appalling conditions.
This seems a mainstream opinion. But if we modify this argument a bit, we may be able to clarify the logic behind it. Now if all those impoverished people could play at the Fanling golf course and the wealthy are barred from doing so, would you still agree on taking back the golf course?
This could lead to two answers. One is that you may no longer support the idea of taking back the golf course and instead allow the poor to play golf there. The rationale behind this is that both the poor and the rich have the right to play the sport.
The other answer is that you are in favor of taking back the golf course and using the area to build new flats. The argument is that providing housing for the people is far more important than playing golf.
This leads to another question: Should the government now also take back the Hong Kong Stadium, the Jockey Club racecourses, or even tap into our country parks to build new homes because housing is also far more crucial than sports, horse racing and hiking?
The government cannot just offer its citizens a “home” that only has a backyard (country park) and a playground (stadium) but without a house. Likewise, using all the land to build homes is also an irresponsible decision.
The days of Hong Kong being just a small fishing village have long been gone, and today our citizens are expecting more than just a roof over their heads.
They are looking to the government to provide them with a decent quality of life under which they can not only have a place to live in, but can also enjoy public entertainment, sports, learning, and culture.
That said, it absolutely makes no sense that Hong Kong cannot accommodate a century-old golf course.
The second “guilt” is that the government has been renting out the entire area to the golf club for just a symbolic land premium of HK$1,000 per year when the club membership fee itself can cost up to millions of dollars.
I do agree that the administration must immediately review its existing policy on “private recreational leases”, under which private sports clubs can rent and occupy government land almost for free.
After all, these are people with deep pockets who can afford to pay millions of dollars to become members of these clubs, so why should our government continue to subsidize them with valuable public resources?
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 13
Translation by Alan Lee and Jonathan Chong with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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