Exclusive clubs that pay nominal rents to enjoy prime sites will have to open their doors to the general public more often in future, but the government still plans to offer them long-term leases.
A senior home affairs official made the announcement yesterday after lawmakers passed a non-binding motion calling for any new leases to be short-term until there had been a consultation on the public-access requirements.
'Because these facilities are mostly large operations with many employees and many activities held, it will be very difficult for them if you tell them only a short-term lease can be signed until a review is made,' permanent secretary for home affairs Raymond Young Lap-moon said.
Clubs such as the Hong Kong Football Club and Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club were granted land decades ago at no cost or at a nominal premium.
In return, they were supposed to open their doors to outside bodies for a given period - typically three sessions a week. But a lack of publicity meant this right was rarely exercised.
Young told legislators at a home affairs panel meeting yesterday that the leases of 55 of the 73 clubs involved would expire between November this year and next December.
'We will generally require [clubs] to open up their facilities to the use of outside bodies for 50 hours per month or more.' he said. Facilities would also have to be opened up at weekends and on public holidays.
But lawmakers demanded more public access.
'You only ask these groups to open their facilities to outsiders for about 50 hours in a month. And you think it means the facilities are open to the public?' Democrats lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said.
'The government should lease the land to [the clubs] for three to five years first' to see how much public access they allow,' said Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan. 'We should consult the public.'
The government announced last year that the private recreational leases of members' clubs were to be reviewed. Proposals to open up access to such clubs were presented by the Home Affairs Bureau in May.