Fast-track membership sparks row at FCC

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2011, 12:00am


Steps are being taken to defuse a row that erupted in one of Hong Kong's most renowned private clubs over the fast-tracking of membership applications.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) in Lower Albert Road enjoys a proud reputation in the city and has three types of membership - correspondent, journalist and associate.

There is no waiting list for correspondent or journalist memberships, but the wait to become an associate member has risen steadily in recent years.

At the club's annual meeting in May, members raised the issue of whether some associate members were able to jump the waiting list.

Three members then wrote letters of complaint and asked that the matter be looked into.

An investigation by FCC president Anna Healy-Fenton found that while some of the 170 people on the waiting list had been waiting for as long as 18 months, other associate membership applications were completed in less than two weeks. The shortest time from application to membership in the last six months was just eight days.

The minutes of a lively meeting of the club's board of governors revealed that Healy-Fenton said she had been assured by the club's membership committee that applicants would be taken off the membership list chronologically. However, in the course of her investigation she discovered that some applicants proposed by certain club members were fast-tracked to membership.

One board member said he felt 'deceived and let down' that names from the top of the waiting list were not given priority. However, a membership committee member defended the process, arguing that there never had been any guidelines and that there could not have been any deception as 'there cannot be if there are no guidelines'.

'I was surprised and disappointed to hear that this was going on. I really had no idea,' Healy-Fenton said.

'There's no actual rule in the FCC's articles of association concerning this, but it's fair to say that the understanding of people who apply to join the FCC is that they join a waiting list. Their expectation is that they'll move up the list as time progresses, so it was a surprise to many to hear that this was not necessarily how things were operating.'

Healy-Fenton said that a resolution had now been passed confirming that applications would be processed according to how long the applicant had waited, although in an exceptional situation an application could be considered early.

'We've now got a fair system. Going forward we have a very clear definition of how we admit associate members,' Healy-Fenton said.