Blanket fee hikes for Hong Kong’s private clubs would choke those that cater to the middle class
The general public assumption that all private clubs in Hong Kong are only for the “rich” is extremely misleading and incorrect. Club de Recreio, which has been in existence for over a century, has always catered to the middle class and has, apart from when paying taxes, always been ignored by the government.
Long before government sports facilities were in place, this club offered memberships and monthly subscriptions at a very low and affordable level, so that the average middle class family could pursue their physical and mental health at a low cost.
In order to preserve its original goal, the club, through all these years, has never offered any debenture or transferable memberships, and all amenities and operational costs are kept to a minimal (hardly anything near extravagant) level.
In short, while fingers are being pointed saying that the government is heavily subsidising every private club, the members of Recreio have been subsidising themselves, and have helped in alleviating the government’s burden all these years – by serving the “ignored” middle-class community.
In addition, members are also subsidising local sports development, by opening up their facilities to National Sports Associations free of charge and to other eligible outside bodies at concessionary charges.
If the government were to go ahead and apply the higher lease renewal fees on a blanket basis, what is “small change” to other clubs would be an astronomical sum to members of Club de Recreio.
The inability to come up with such a hefty amount will invariably force the club to close down. The government, as usual, would be protecting the “rich” and ignoring the middle class yet again.
A. Hung, Ho Man Tin