China shuts a sixth of golf courses in graft crackdown

BEIJING • China has ordered the closure of a sixth of the country's golf courses since 2011, its top economic planner said, in an ongoing crackdown on a sport controversial for its links with the wealthy elite.

The ruling Communist Party has an ambivalent relationship with golf. The local authorities have profited from selling land for courses, but they are seen as venues for shady dealmaking between the elite and politicians.

The central authorities had ordered a nationwide freeze on new golf courses in 2004, which was largely ignored.

Since a fresh crackdown was launched in 2011, 111 of China's 683 golf courses nationwide were ordered shut, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement posted on its website on Sunday.

Operators voluntarily closed an additional 11, it added.

Courses were taken to task for illegally using arable land or nature reserves, extracting groundwater in prohibited areas and other violations.

The NDRC ordered an additional 18 courses to return illegally occupied land, as well as 47 others to stop further construction.

Golf courses are present in all of China's provincial-level regions except Tibet, according to the NDRC.

The country boasts world-class fairways and an emerging crop of young players, but expensive club memberships mean that only a tiny minority of Chinese have swung a golf club.

In 2015, the country's 88 million Communist Party members were banned from joining golf clubs in a corruption crackdown which also targeted banquets and lavish gift-giving.

A Chinese court yesterday jailed for life for corruption a former vice-chairman of the top parliamentary advisory body.

Su Rong had been one of the 23 vice-chairmen of the largely ceremonial but high-profile Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until authorities began an investigation into him in 2014.

Su had previously served as Communist Party boss for the poor inland provinces of Jiangxi and Gansu.

In a short statement, the court in the northern city of Jinan said Su was guilty of bribery, abuse of power and being unable to explain the source of a "massive amount" of assets. Su took bribes worth 116 million yuan (S$24 million) between 2002 and 2014, the court said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'China shuts a sixth of golf courses in graft crackdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe