Audit Commission wants government to review leases of 17 elite clubs
Audit Commission suggests land belonging to exclusive clubhouses, which face lease renewals within coming years, could be put to better use
The future of some of Hong Kong's best-known and most exclusive clubs is under scrutiny after the Audit Commission urged the government to consider taking back private clubhouses and putting the land to better use.
The Home Affairs Bureau asked in June to review 17 clubs whose leases were expiring soon - some next year - but the commission called for a timetable.
"As pointed out in the 2013 policy address, land shortage has seriously stifled social and economic development in Hong Kong," the commission said in its report released yesterday.
"It would appear that the Home Affairs Bureau, as the responsible policy bureau for private recreation leases, needs to work collaboratively with the Development Bureau to assess whether the leases due for renewal should be renewed."
Up for renewal next year are the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's premises in Sai Kung - one of its three clubhouses - and the Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association in Tai Po.
Others facing renewal in the next few years include the Jockey Club Beas River Lodge in Sheung Shui (2015), Mong Kok District Cultural Recreational and Sports Association (2018) and Hong Kong Golf Club in (2020).
The land was granted at a nominal or zero land premium and at low rents to promote sports in the community.
But the leases have been under scrutiny since 2010, when their transparency and the clubs' compliance with requirements to admit the public were called into question.
The commission also questioned yesterday whether the "prolonged hold-over arrangement" for the former Post Office and Cable & Wireless Recreation Club in Causeway Bay, now a staff club for PCCW, should continue. The club's lease expired in 1996, but is renewed quarterly.
The clubs, with membership ranging from 147 to 49,600, rarely opened their sports facilities for public use and some ran commercial activities, the commission said.
It blamed the bureau's lack of a clear definition of "recreation" for abuses. The Chinese Recreation Club, for example, has 15 mahjong rooms and a barber shop while the Hong Kong Football Club has massage rooms and eight restaurants.
Land leases of private recreation clubs to be renewed by government:
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (Sai Kung) 2014
Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association (Tai Po) 2014
Hong Kong Girl Guides Association (Sheung Shui) 2015
Mong Kok District Cultural Recreational & Sports Association 2018
Hong Kong Golf Club (Fanling) 2020
Aberdeen Boat Club 2021
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (Middle Island) 2021
Hong Kong Cricket Club 2023
Scout Association of Hong Kong (Yuen Long) 2024
Hong Kong Model Engineering Club 2024
Scout Association of Hong Kong (Tai Po) 2025
Yuen Long District Sports Association 2031
Hong Kong Jockey Club (Happy Valley) 2034
Directors of the Chinese Young Men’s Christian Association of Hong Kong 2047
Hong Kong Girl Guides Association (Ho Man Tin) 2056
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (Kellett Island) 2056
The Post Office and Cable & Wireless Recreation Club renewed quarterly