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  • Apr 19, 2014
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CommentLetters

Clarifying policy on recreational leases

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 4:09am

I would like to clarify a couple of possible misconceptions that could arise from your editorial ("Private clubs still getting easy ride", June 20).

First, your editorial refers to "some 70 clubs" occupying land under the current policy for recreational leases. In fact, there are at present a total of 69 venues, managed by 49 separate organisations, operating under private recreational leases.

Of these organisations, many are non-government agencies such as the Po Leung Kuk and the Chinese YMCA, or uniformed groups such as the Hong Kong Girl Guides Association and the Scout Association of Hong Kong.

Other lessees include sports organisations such as the Hong Kong, China Rowing Association and the Yuen Long District Sports Association.

Of the 49 organisations operating facilities under these leases, 27 might reasonably be described as "private recreation clubs", most of which have a single venue.

Many of these clubs have invested in facilities and run training programmes for members and non-members alike, without which some sports would not have had the chance to develop in Hong Kong.

Second, you mention that the private recreational lease holders "have to open their facilities for at least 50 hours a month".

While we have set this as a basic requirement (recognising that some lessees operate premises that have very limited facilities), we have in fact required most lessees, in particular those with more extensive facilities, to open their facilities to non-members for much greater periods of time.

In renewing the leases, the typical commitment by lessees has been to make facilities available to non-members for hundreds of hours per month.

We are keen to allow Hong Kong people to enjoy as wide a range as possible of sports and recreational opportunities, despite the constraints of a mainly urban environment.

We will monitor closely the use of private recreational lease holders' facilities by non-members and, when undertaking the review of the current policy, we will take account of the extent to which these facilities provide a valuable sporting and recreational resource for the community as a whole.

Yolanda Tong, chief leisure manager, (recreation and sport), Home Affairs Bureau

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Ms. Tong's defense of the PRLs is overly broad. The private clubs are situated on public land but contribute precious little to the public good. What justification is there for the PRLs for the Craigengower Cricket Club in Causeway Bay, which does not even have a cricket pitch, or the Ladies Recreation Club, which occupies a huge piece of land in the heart of Mid-levels. What do these private clubs do for the good of Hong Kong? Since the public lands they occupy generate neither land sales revenue nor rents, then they should at least provide comprehensive sports training to large numbers of local youths, which of course they do not. It is particularly galling, and should be prohibited in all future PRL renewal, that many of these clubs operate million dollar debenture programmes which generate profits for individual investors. Private profit derived from public land is unconscionable. All private clubs which operate on PRLs should be required to serve members of the public on a "walk-in" basis for up to 50% of their operating hours, including weekends. Otherwise, the government should either 1) make the clubs pay market rents for the space they occupy, 2) take over the clubs at the end of their current lease and operate the facilities for the public, or 3) knock the clubhouses down and sell the land for re-development and put the billions of dollars raised into public recreational facilities that can be enjoyed by all, not a privileged few.

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