Golf course highlights city's unfair ways
Ordinary Hongkongers complain about our unfair society, but just how unfair is it? This much: the Hong Kong Golf Club pays the princely sum of HK$1 a year on top of a one-off 20-year land premium of just HK$1,000 for its 170-hectare Fanling golf course, used by about 2,000 of Hong Kong's richest men. The poorest in our city pay HK$1,500 a month for a bed space smaller than a coffin in the slums of Sham Shui Po. An ordinary Hongkonger pays the government a HK$19 entrance fee to use public swimming pools. Again, the Fanling golf course pays the government HK$1 a year for rich guys to play.
An elite American business college, Chicago Booth, has secured a grade-three heritage site on Mount Davis as a campus for a one-off land premium of HK$1,000 for 10 years. The university will charge HK$1.2 million tuition fees. Needless to say, those sleeping in bed spaces smaller than a coffin won't be able to afford it. Chicago Booth will be for rich folks, just like the Fanling golf course.
About half of the 28,418 secondary school pupils who achieved the minimum score last week to enter university won't be able to do so. That's because the government has only 15,000 subsidised first-year university places. If the grandmothers and grandfathers of those who lose out can scavenge enough discarded cardboard boxes, they might just about be able to afford the HK$1.2 million tuition fees at elite colleges.
So here's the deal: if you're rich and powerful, you get heavily subsidised golf courses. If you're an ordinary Hongkonger you don't get heavily subsidised swimming pools. If you're an elite university catering to rich folks, you get subsidised land. If you're an ordinary Hongkonger who has struggled hard to qualify for a subsidised university place, you can forget about it. You want to know how unfair our society is? This is how unfair.
No putts - let the children play ball instead
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po insists that Fanling golf course does not offer an alternative to seizing land from villagers in the New Territories for the government's two new towns. He says they will consider taking back the golf course to build other towns later.
Why wait? The government can resume the land after one year's notice. There are 170 hectares of lush green space out there. Why waste it on a couple of thousand rich guys swinging sticks and riding around in golf carts when tens of thousands more jostle for scant sports facilities? Just look at Wan Chai's Southorn Playground.
Take the golf course back now and turn it into a temporary giant open space where children can kick a football, picnic with their families or fly a kite. If Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dares to do that, his dismal poll numbers will shoot up.
Lunchtime missile crisis averted as radicals miss out
Phew! Nothing more drastic than protest papers. Public Eye had feared bananas would be hurled at liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming during his unprecedented lunch with legislators yesterday.
"Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Chan Wai-yip handed over their protest stuff civilly before walking out. Their loss. Dialogue is a two-way street. Zhang had finally agreed to listen to even the so-called radical legislators. Reciprocity would have been the decent thing. The other pan-democrats wisely stayed. Next stop: lunch at the liaison office?
Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. firstname.lastname@example.org