Hong Kong’s sports club lease renewals deserve balanced treatment
I refer to your recent articles on the leases of sports clubs in Hong Kong. It has been the government’s policy, based on a small-government philosophy commonly accepted by society, that sports facilities are better built and managed by like-minded enthusiasts who should take responsibility for them. The government helps by providing land at a symbolic fee, thus the formation of sport clubs.
I support the government’s recent recommendation on the need for sport clubs. That should not be conflated with the need for more housing or other uses. The question is whether we have enough sports facilities, compared to other world cities. But I do have questions on the twin conditions of more public usage and higher fees for lease renewal.
Building and running these sports facilities cost money. Clubs survive by charging monthly subscriptions, admissions and, from time to time, by issuing debentures.
Most clubs will allow an enthusiast to use its facilities easily, at little or no cost, while those who are not enthusiasts pay much higher fees or for a debenture. It is a way for the clubs to survive and subsidise sports. To attract these debenture purchasers, an aura of exclusivity is created.
I totally support the requirement of being more open to common use, a balance between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot.
But for the government to charge a higher fee will mean those already paying will have to pay more. Who would do that if, at the same time, they get to use the facilities less? There must be a balance.
As for the recent demonstrations at the Hong Kong Golf Club, I caution those involved as to what that means for the rule of law. All the sport clubs have valid leases, just like other organisations that lease from the government, such as schools or even public housing.
We, as a civilised society, should debate with the government on what is a proper balance for a society to progress, and to achieve more equilibrium between the haves and have-nots. That’s why we have elections and the Legislative Council.
To do things outside the rule of law will lead to demands from the majority for a more authoritarian rule, which none of us wants to see.
Lowell Chang, Causeway Bay