Caixin
Jan 23, 2017 06:53 PM
POLITICS & LAW

China Closes Fifth of Nation’s Nearly 700 Golf Courses, Government Says

China has closed about one-fifth of its nearly 700 golf courses in a six-year campaign to rein in rampant construction of facilities it considers a threat to drinking water and farmland as well as breeding grounds for corruption.

The campaign has picked up steam since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013 and launched a sweeping anti-graft drive, during which the authorities found that the luxury sport had often been used as a means of bribing government officials.

Out of 683 golf courses across the country, authorities have shut down or stopped the construction of 187 courses, according to a statement on Sunday on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which led a joint crackdown campaign with a number of national government departments.

The remaining 496 golf courses have been ordered to “rectify,” which involves returning some land that was farmland or woodland to their previous state and meeting water-saving and pollution-discharge standards.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, issued a document in 2004 that banned the construction of any new golf courses, which often take up the best farmland and woodland, and whose fairways and greens consume excessive quantities of water.

But hundreds of new golf courses still sprouted up across the country after that, especially around the developed Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and the Bohai Sea area, according to the NDRC.

With the exception of Tibet, all 31 of the Chinese mainland’s provincial-level areas were found to have golf courses, the NDRC said.

Beijing has shut down 10 golf courses in the latest campaign and ordered 54 golf courses to “rectify,” the local government announced on its website on Sunday.

The cleanup campaign that started in 2011 jointly by the NDRC and land, agriculture, tourism, water and other authorities strengthened especially after more government officials held for graft were reportedly also involved with “golf corruption.”

In 2015 alone, more than 40 officials nationwide were found to be using public money to play golf or were invited by others to play golf as a form of bribery, Beijing-based newspaper The Mirror quoted data from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s disciplinary watchdog, as saying.

In the latest case, Xia Xinghua, a former deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, has been dismissed from the Communist Party for accepting gifts and other violations including playing golf paid for by other people from 2013 to 2015, the CCDI reported on Wednesday.

The NDRC statement reiterated that no new golf courses will be allowed to be built in the country.

Contact reporter Wu Gang (gangwu@caixin.com)

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