There’s a long history of private clubs in Hong Kong, beginning with gentleman’s clubs bringing the elitism and tradition of London’s private clubs to the colonies. The Hong Kong Club pioneered this in 1846, and essentially nothing much changed until the late 20th century. Women and Chinese weren’t invited, and a small, powerful group of white men spent afternoons sipping gin-and-tonics and exerting influence on the colony. Good times, if you happened to be a member of the club, and good times that continued long after Britain itself had moved past the world they represented. Certainly, in this respect Hong Kong was a classic colony, with a moneyed self-appointed elite hanging on to the traditions that favored them.
Private clubs still exert great influence here, but the old world would no longer recognise them. Change came fast as the 1997 handover approached, and by the time Hong Kong returned to China the movers and shakers were no longer white; and neither were the private clubs. The foreign community is still overrepresented, but the majority of members are now Chinese. Deals are still made and power distributed in the same way though, and a new, unabashedly wealthy and ambitious group has replaced the old type. One’s social calendar is still greatly improved by an invitation to the most exclusive event.
They’re not easy to get into though, with nominations, interviews and the like – and if you have to inquire about the fees then you’re probably not the right kind. Corporate memberships are common however, and for many people this is the best way in. If you want to get more details about these clubs and how to crack the entry code, M for Membership is the go-to resource.
Most expats will spend more time in a different kind of club though, the sporting type, and Hong Kong has its share of yacht clubs and country clubs with superb facilities and waiting lists. No need for politicking and smugness at these ones, they’re just a way to enjoy the good life in a great city.
Foreign Correspondents Club
Chummy club where the journalists and writers hang out, along with diplomats and business insiders. Bar, gym, restaurants and library.
2 Lower Albert Rd, Central
Arguably the club most encapsulating high class and exclusivity, there are both town and country facilities with sports, dining, bars and the all-important social and business networking events.
Exchange Square Two, Central
28 Tai Tam Rd, Tai Tam
The Hong Kong Club
The daddy of them all, founded in 1846 and still exclusive and proud of its influential members.
1 Jackson Rd, Central
The Hong Kong Jockey Club
Exclusive and celebrated club run from Hong Kong’s most famous horse racing venues, with swimming, tennis, riding, playgrounds and all sorts of courses.
Happy Valley Racecourse, 1 Sports Road, Happy Valley
Sha Tin Racecourse, Sha Tin
Ladies Recreation Club
Despite the name, a mixed club popular with families (men can be members too) with plenty of sports options as well as good food and social events.
10 Old Peak Rd, Mid-Levels
The Aberdeen Marina Club
Exclusive club in a huge marina, with a range of restaurants, family activities, sports facilities and spa environments.
8 Shum Wan Rd, Aberdeen
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club
Another celebrated old club with a wide range of dining, sporting and social facilities, as well as sailing and rowing courses for beginner and veteran alike.
Kellett Island, Causeway Bay
The Hong Kong Country Club
Founded as a club for the sort of people clubs didn’t allow – Chinese and non-rich – in the 1960s. Probably the closest Hong Kong has to a democratic exclusive club, with fantastic and scenic facilities both indoor and outdoor and an extremely welcoming environment.
188 Wong Chuk Hang Rd, Deep Water Bay
The Kowloon Cricket Club
Celebrated club dating from 1904 that has evolved from exclusive bastion of privilege to a much-loved family-friendly social club with a huge range of sporting facilities.
10 Cox’s Rd, Jordan, Kowloon