24th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) Allegations have emerged of deep corruption, opaque governance and racism within the prestigious Hong Kong Country Club, tarnishing its cultivated image as an icon of diversity.
According to insider sources, the club’s all-powerful General Committee stands accused of rigging admissions, manipulating votes, making risky investments causing massive losses, and covering up their actions – all while keeping members in the dark. There are also claims that racism persists subtly in the membership approval process, despite proclaimed openness.
In an unprecedented move this April, the General Committee abruptly dismissed its chairman Lawrence Tong without offering members any reason. Mr Tong had chaired the club for 9 years and was only halfway through his latest 2-year term when suddenly terminated. Vice-chairman Peter Roberts faced similar unexplained removal. Mr Tong later refuted vague misconduct allegations in a letter to members. However, the opaque nature of his dismissal has fueled suspicions of ulterior motives.
Some allege Mr Tong challenged the committee over its failure to properly consult members on the club’s lease renewal and redevelopment options. Others claim he opposed the committee manipulating membership nominations. It remains unclear why reformist Mr Tong faced such hasty, unexplained ejection.
During the club’s 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM), multiple members voiced concerns about the nomination process for General Committee candidates. They alleged unfair application of rules requiring physical rather than electronic submissions of nominations, disadvantaging overseas members from participating democratically.
According to the club’s lawyer Mr Huntsworth, this contravened the club’s Articles of Association, lending credence to accusations of deliberately preserving the committee’s power by subverting members’ will. Even more seriously, some accused the General Committee of manipulating proxy voting to retain control. Members cited brazen proxy vote solicitation as apparent corruption violating AGM rules. The supposedly independent committee lobbying for specific individuals reinforced perceptions of an opaque clique clinging to power.
Most alarming are claims the club lost HK$30 million on the General Committee’s risky investment decisions exceeding its mandate, while the audited accounts declared only a HK$14 million loss. Finance Committee minutes indicate the loss stemmed from abruptly exiting managed investments with BlackRock and Pictet, contradicting the Chairman’s claim the firms breached their mandate. Members allege a conflicted committee member from LGT Bank drove the decision.
Such investment “shenanigans” and opaque losses have outraged members who see club reserves being gambled recklessly. It highlights the urgent need to reform club governance and oversight mechanisms.
Despite proclaimed openness, allegations persist of racism and discrimination subtly influencing the membership approval process. Records show one applicant’s 11-year U.K. residency was discounted in assigning him the 10-year waitlist Chinese membership category, violating rules.
Another instance of proposer-seconder connections hints at preferential treatment for white, old-money circles. The committee’s opacity in applying membership criteria risks perpetuating an Anglo-Saxon, old-boys’ club culture.
After 60 years, the club has failed to ensure committee power is not abused at members’ expense. With scandals widening, Hong Kong’s esteemed Country Club faces a reckoning. Sweeping reforms are imperative – including term limits for committee members, updated proxy voting rules, financial oversight mechanisms, and transparent, merit-based membership policies – to restore integrity.
The club’s legacy as a pillar of Hong Kong’s internationalism is at stake. Members must unite to reclaim its progressive values before the club is permanently tainted by scandal. The inner workings of this elite institution can no longer remain shrouded under veils of secrecy and privilege.