Opulent yacht club in China’s Hawaii forced to close over eco clash
Yalong Bay Yacht Club – a destination for rich mainlanders – is accused of encroaching on the Sanya National Coral Reef Nature Reserve
An upmarket yacht club catering to wealthy Chinese on the island of Hainan, “the Hawaii of China”, has been ordered to close over accusations that its activities encroached on a nearby nature reserve.
The oceans and fisheries bureau in the tourist hotspot of Sanya issued the closure order to the Yalong Bay Yacht Club just days after Beijing criticised the provincial government for being lax on the environment.
Under the order, the club must halt its operations and ensure all yachts leave waters within the Sanya National Coral Reef Nature Reserve, news website Hainan.net reported.
The move is in step with President Xi Jinping’s effort to shift the country’s focus away from headline economic growth and onto the environment, a shift China’s provinces are expected to fall in behind.
The yacht club, which opened in 2011, includes a 150-berth marina on the luxury St Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort.
Its builder, Sanya Yalong Development, is affiliated with state-run China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation, the country’s largest agribusiness firm.
On December 23, environment ministry inspectors publicly accused Hainan’s government of “destroying the ecology for the sake of money” and “tailoring government plans for property developers”.
The ministry also found serious breaches of environmental standards on the island. It said Sanya’s authorities had neglected their duty to look after the environment.
Numerous improperly constructed projects were found in the area around the nature reserve, according to authorities.
Sunny Tao, a Chinese yacht broker, said the crackdown was “raising an alert for Hainan’s other yacht clubs and tourism real estate developers, as many of them had expanded rapidly along coastlines there in recent years”.
“Besides yacht sales, the tone of the central government would definitely affect the development of luxury resorts and properties, most located at the seaside,” Tao said.
At China’s annual central economic work conference in December, Xi told cadres to focus on risk control, environmental protection and poverty alleviation.
In a show of loyalty, Hainan’s authorities committed to make the environment the top priority over economic expansion. Twelve of the island’s 19 regions dumped their targets for gross domestic product, industrial value and fixed-asset investment to allow local officials to focus on protecting beaches and tropical rainforest instead of striving to attract investment.
Business generated by the operation of luxury yachts, hotels, golf courses and other high-end tourism facilities had been booming across Hainan, where local authorities have been trying hard to present the island as a growing international tourist destination, a strategic pillar of local economic growth.
In 2011, the yacht-related Rendez-Vous show in Sanya attracted more than 8,000 generally wealthy people – including 200 billionaires, according to mainland media reports.
Thirteen luxury yachts were displayed during the four-day show, attracting the attention of makers of super-luxury yachts costing tens of millions of yuan each.