Teed-off villagers in grave response

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2006, 12:00am

More than 100 indigenous villagers yesterday staged a mass grave sweeping at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling in protest against the club's refusal to grant them 'playing rights' at two courses.

It was the fourth demonstration in two months by scores of villagers banging gongs and cymbals at their ancestors' graves.

Club general manager Howard Palmes said he regretted the disruption the 'large-scale incursions' had caused to its operations.

He said since the club was established at Fanling in 1911, it had honoured the villagers' ancient rites to perform 'genuine ancestor worship' on its property, which houses some ancestral graves.

'We have never restricted any of the local villagers from accessing the graves at reasonable times to deal with any rituals they have,' Mr Palmes said. 'There has been a tacit understanding with them - they have played golf for a number of years on the old course [without having to become members of the club].'

But the old course is being upgraded over the next few months and the villagers want to use the two newer courses. The club has refused.

'The club was warned that there would be considerable inconvenience caused by the staging of mass grave sweeping demonstrations and that these would continue until such demands were met,' Mr Palmes said. 'We have had many complaints from members.'

North District councillor Liu Chiu-wa said the club and indigenous villagers had had a good relationship in the past.

Villagers said there had been an oral agreement decades ago that villagers could play golf at the club so long as they did not disrupt members.

Mr Liu called on villagers to calm down and discuss the matter with the club. District councillor Sham Wing-kan said the villagers felt it was unfair that the club was now changing its policy.

Mr Palmes said the club was in 'active discussions' with all the relevant parties.