The Task Force on Land Supply has recommended that the government requisition 32 hectares of land from the Fanling Golf Course as a priority. In response the Hong Kong Golf Club has published statements in newspapers expressing fierce opposition. Some people even argue that if Hong Kong loses a worthy golf course, foreign enterprises might not choose to be headquartered in Hong Kong.
The report by the Task Force shows that the use of land on Private Recreational Leases is supported by more than 60% of people, which is a clear reflection of the opinion of mainstream society. The lease of the Fanling Golf Course will expire in 2020. Considering factors such as conservation and the capacity of supporting transport facilities, the Task Force suggests the government give priority to the requisition of 32 hectares of land east of Fan Kam Road for putting up housing. Whether the remaining 140 hectares of land should be developed in the long term and whether the golf course should be relocated should be studied in detail by the government, the Task Force suggests.
Since the big debate was launched, some people in the business sector and golf sector have vehemently opposed the requisition of the Fanling Golf Course. Some business heavyweights have stated in their submissions that some foreign business partners like to play golf at Fanling and if the golf course is gone, the conduct of business talks will be affected. Since the report was published, some people against the requisition of the golf course have criticised the partial or full development of the golf course for being "extremely ridiculous". They are worried that Hong Kong "might not be able to organise international competitions" anymore. They also say that less and less companies are setting up regional headquarters in Hong Kong due to the lack of education and sports facilities.
Ordinary citizens might think it is these assertions that are "extremely ridiculous" indeed. To some business people who like to hold business meetings and play golf at the same time, the absence of a place to swing the club might be a bit regrettable. But business people talk business, and to them it is profit that matters most. The public is doubtful whether a business deal will fall apart or a corporation will give up establishing headquarters in Hong Kong because there is not a place to play golf. The Task Force also says that under the partial development plan, the remaining 140 hectares of golf course land (including two 18-hole courses and the old 10-hole course) can still support the hosting of international golf competitions.
In recent years, regions like Singapore and Shenzhen have requisitioned land occupied by golf courses for better use of land resources. In contrast the HKSAR government has expressed reservations about the requisition of Fanling golf course land, with some high-ranking officials even parroting the excuses of the golf club as if they were its mouthpiece. Now that the Task Force has put forward some concrete proposals, the government should explain its preference to the public as soon as possible to show that the authorities put the public interest first and will not balk at doing the right thing in the face of opposition from the rich and powerful. In 2013 the Singaporean government proposed releasing low-usage land for the building of housing and infrastructure. Just the next year it requisitioned three pieces of land used by golf clubs. The SAR government should learn from the Singaporean authorities' determination and ability to act.