A video of a clash between caddies and police officers has been making the rounds on Chinese internet websites after the shutdown of a golf course in Guangzhou.
It is not clear what transpired immediately before the start of the video, but according to the uploader, caddies at the Sino Golf & Country Club began to create a commotion and organised to demand for their wages when they arrived at work on March 27th to find that the golf course was to be immediately shut down.
Management soon called in for security and police, which proceeded to regain control of the chaotic situation through what appears to be an excessive use of force. Employees were pinned to the ground with their arms twisted as the women screamed for them to stop. Surrounded by a ring of security holding hands, one woman lies motionless on the ground.
The video has been described as “chilling” by Dan Washburn, author of The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream. “I don’t know the specific details related to this incident, but there is one thing that may be getting lost in all this talk about China’s newly intensified crackdown on golf courses: If you shut down 66 courses, a lot of people are going to lose jobs — and those people are going to be understandably upset,” Washburn tells Shanghaiist. “Many of these courses employ hundreds of caddies alone. And if rumors are correct — a big if in China, I know — this could be just the tip of the iceberg.”
The circumstances that led to the closure of the golf course remain unclear. The Sino Golf and Country Club, located adjacent to the Yujiazhuang Reservoir on the outskirts of Guangzhou, was not on the list of 66 golf courses shut down in the nationwide crackdown in March announced recently by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
China’s 2004 moratorium on new golf courses has frequently been violated and not given any real bite until recently. According to one estimate, two-thirds of the country’s approximately 600 golf courses were built after 2004. But as China starts to get serious about preserving its dwindling supply of water and arable land, more golf courses are expected to go.
In an investigative report released the same day, BBC Chinese found that these 66 closures may only be the tip of the iceberg. One golf course manager, who chose not to divulge his name, told BBC Chinese that the NDRC may release a second list of another 100 golf courses slated for shutdown within the next two months. The owners of the golf courses have already been notified well in advance, he says.
“Right now, we are all sitting on death row, waiting for the guillotine to come down anytime,” the manager was quoted as saying.
Many of the 66 golf courses that were shut down were already failing due to poor management, he adds, but more will be shut down as a result of a government order that has called for golf courses that are standing on precious arable land or water resources, or those that have standing disputes with villagers, to be on the chopping block.
Another anonymous golf course manager tells BBC Chinese of a greater threat facing golf courses than government action. “Shutting down those 66 golf courses isn’t that big of deal for the ones that are left,” he said. “The anti-corruption drive is what’s hitting us really hard. Government officials and executives of state owned enterprises don’t dare to be seen playing golf anymore.”
Since police and security forces put an abrupt end to their protest in the golf course’s parking lot, some of the caddies from the Sino Golf & Country Club have taken to Weibo to have their voices heard.
@颜湄儿, one of the caddies, writes on her Weibo page that when Lin Kaixuan, the president of the company that owns the golf course, was asked why employees were not warned ahead of time about the closing, Lin waved them off by saying, “Sorry, I was very busy and forgot about it.”
@范范范美婵, pleaded for support from fellow netizens against their boss and the local police. “The golf course boss betrays our trust and the government comes in and beats us up. They put two of our female colleagues in the hospital. Please friends, help us out!”
Meanwhile, unsavory details of a gold mine of misdeeds allegedly committed by Lin Kaixuan and his wife have surfaced online. These reports allege that Lin and his wife owed the government 14 million yuan in taxes and were also complicit in gang-related activities. Both, however, managed to be elected to as provincial CPPCC members in 2013.
by Alex Linder