Luxury clubs shuttered in Hangzhou

Thirty private facilities, including one owned by Jack Ma, close at resort

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 3:36am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 3:36am

Thirty private clubs at the famed West Lake resort in Hangzhou in Zhejiang have shut down in the past week, amid President Xi Jinping's war on graft.

Among the clubs, many of which had been operating for years, include one owned by Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma Yun, and one backed by Hong Kong novelist Louis Cha Leung-yung, Xinhua reported.

Ma along with seven Zhejiang-born businessmen, including NetEase founder William Ding Lei, provided the money behind Jiangnanhui, a high-end, club designed by artist Ai Weiwei and opened in 2006.

Only 400 people have been allowed to join Jiangnanhui and each needed to pay at least 200,000 yuan (HK$254,300) for a life-long membership, according to reports.

Jiangnanhui suspended business last September, a manager told China National Radio, saying the club was seeking a business model transition.

Cha's club, Yunsong Shushe, was built in a traditional style in 1994 with an investment of tens of millions of yuan. Two years later, it was transferred to the Hangzhou government and opened to the public. In 2012 local media revealed it had been transformed into a high-end restaurant.

The closures came after central discipline authorities ordered a crackdown in December on the "evil winds in the private clubs" amid Xi's "mass line" campaign.

The order said the private clubs occupied "public resources in historical architecture and parks" and "actively encouraged extravagance and bred corruption". Communist Party members were told to stay away from them, Xinhua reported.

The West Lake resort has 1,760 restaurants and clubs, and 38 are listed as high-end. They have all been ordered to shut or change their operations to bring them in line with Xi's campaign.

The provincial government said in a meeting last week that the measures would be extended throughout the province. A similar order was issued last week by the Beijing municipal government to shut "secret" clubs and restaurants located within public parks in the city.

The central government has over the past year issued about 15 regulations targeting public corruption and extravagance, according to mainland media reports. In addition to the prohibition against joining private clubs, members have been warned against building new offices or holding lavish weddings or funerals.