Hong Kong's golfers are gearing up for a battle against the government's plan to repossess a portion of the Hong Kong Golf Club for public housing.
The move, set to take place on September 1, would see 9 hectares of the 172-hectare club taken over to build 12,000 public homes.
While the government claims the redevelopment is necessary to address the city's unaffordable housing market and severe shortage of public housing, golfers and other supporters of the club argue that it would harm Hong Kong's international image and put the environment at risk.
The proposal has sparked a heated debate, with both sides presenting their views at a public hearing in June.
Golfers, historians, and environmental experts have warned that the redevelopment would lead to the loss of a valuable green space and affect the city's international reputation.
On the other hand, pro-government and business figures have backed the plan, citing the need for affordable housing for the working class.
The Development Bureau, responsible for land use planning, is pushing for the reclamation to proceed, but some believe that the government's decision to recategorize the site as "undetermined" from "residential" is a controversial move that could be used to delay the redevelopment.
This has drawn criticism from NGOs, who question whether the golf course will be redeveloped as planned by 2029.
The government has stated that the redevelopment is necessary to address the city's severe housing crisis, and that they are committed to following statutory procedures.
However, the Hong Kong Golf Club is a well-known international golf course that hosts annual tournaments, and the government's decision to take over a portion of the land has raised concerns about the impact on the city's image.
The Development Bureau has assured the public that the housing development within the Fanling golf course is one of the important sources of public housing supply within the next 10 years.
However, the rare measure to recategorize the site has raised eyebrows, and some believe that it could be used to scrap the redevelopment altogether.
In conclusion, the battle for the Hong Kong Golf Club is a heated one, with both sides presenting valid arguments.
While the government Opponents of a controversial development plan in Hong Kong have expressed concerns that the city's image as an international financial center could be damaged if the plan is implemented.
The opponents argue that the area in question lacks the necessary infrastructure to support an influx of inhabitants and that the development is unnecessary given the recent increase in land supply in the area.
One of the main arguments against the plan is that the golf course in question is home to a number of endangered species, including the Chinese swamp cypress, a species that is critically endangered in Asia.
Opponents also argue that the golf course is an important part of Hong Kong's history and cultural heritage.
In response to the controversy, the Hong Kong Golf Club has applied for the 2023 UNESCO Asia Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation Award for the Fanling course.
The application is still being processed.
Hong Kong currently has eight 18-hole golf courses, compared to Singapore's 14.
Three of these courses are located in the Fanling golf course, which is situated close to the border with mainland China.
Opened for play in 1911, it is the oldest championship course in Asia.
The development plan has caused concern among organizers of international golf tournaments, who fear that taking away 32 hectares of land would compromise the integrity of the course and lead to the cancellation of future events.
Amr El Henawy, a former Egyptian Consul General who has lived in Hong Kong since 2020, has warned that if Hong Kong fails to keep its international golf tournaments, it could lose out to other Chinese and Asian cities at a time when it is trying to rebuild its image after the COVID
-19 pandemic and a China-imposed national security law.
Ronny Tong, a senior government adviser and a member of the golf club, has argued that the redevelopment plan is a concession to "populist thinking" by the previous administration and that the current government does not need to follow it blindly.
Tong has also argued that the government should not allow populism and anti-wealth sentiment to spread in the city.
The fate of Hong Kong's bid to host the LIV Golf event early next year and future golfing events is currently unclear.