Face Off: Should the HK government build flats on the Fanling golf course?


Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

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Aerial drone view of the Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling.

Charlotte Fong, 16, International Christian School
Although Hong Kong is suffering from a housing shortage, demolishing the Fanling golf course is certainly not the way to go. It will deal a huge blow to the city’s already listless sports scene. What’s more, the ecological and historical importance of the site far outweighs the benefits of building flats on it. There is a lot of vacant land available across the territory which can be used for this purpose.

As the only place in Hong Kong which is suitable for international golf competitions, the Fanling course plays a crucial role in the city’s sports development. Traditionally seen as a sport for the rich, golf is becoming more popular among young people, with rising stars such as Tiffany Chan gaining international recognition. 

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Being the second oldest golf course in the world outside Scotland, this piece of land is a part of Hong Kong’s rich cultural heritage. It boasts more than 30,000 trees and some of them are very rare. It contains ancestral graves that date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties – one grave is more than 400 years old.

Descendants still live around the area and regularly visit these graves to honour the dead. Additionally, two-fifths of the course is covered with greenery and is home to endangered species, such as the brown fish owl. A government consultation has shown that 80 per cent of respondents support the development of brownfields and unused farmland that are being used for storage purposes. This way, the government can ease the housing crisis as well as preserve a significant site in the New Territories. 

Many people support the course’s re-development because it is seen as a “rich man’s playground”. Basically, it’s a battle between the city’s haves and have-nots, as space-starved Hong Kong seeks more land for homes and to fuel the economy.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The government can retake control of the course and open it to the public at reasonable rates. This will help promote the sport while ensuring the site won’t be demolished. 

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Cyrus Fung, 16, HKUGA College
The Fanling golf course occupies an area bigger than the town of Tsuen Wan and can provide hundreds of public flats. I believe such a plan would be much more beneficial for Hong Kong than having an exclusive golf club for the wealthy. 

The problem with the golf course is that it does not make economic sense. In a place such as Hong Kong, where millions of people are crammed into tiny flats, good planning is crucial. This means people’s basic housing needs, as well as the demand for places such as sports centres where they can take part in leisure activities, have to be fulfilled. However, the Fanling golf course takes up way more space than other sports grounds – this should not happen in a place like Hong Kong which is suffering from a severe shortage of land.

Other ball games such as football and basketball take up smaller areas that can be easily managed. So why should a golf course occupy so much land when at least a part of it could be put to better use? 

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According to a government-appointed task force, partially developing the site in Fanling would be a quicker way to provide much-needed land to solve Hong Kong’s housing crisis, compared to developing the whole course.

It has been suggested that developing a part of the course could provide some 5,000 flats. On the other hand, 13,000 flats could be built if the whole course is developed. But this would take a long time, because it would involve many studies on how to preserve old trees and historic buildings. 

Also, playing a round of golf in Fanling is very expensive. Only the rich can afford it. If the government is truly committed to reducing the income gap, using a part of the golf course to build affordable housing would be a good start.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne