The European Tour has postponed next week’s Hong Kong Open due to the ongoing civil unrest in the city.
The protests began in early June over a now-shelved extradition bill to mainland China that many saw as Beijing’s creeping interference on legal and other rights guaranteed to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
A statement on the Hong Kong Open.— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 20, 2019
The movement has since expanded to include other demands, including direct elections for the city’s leaders and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
Several sporting events have been cancelled due to the unrest, including the PGA Tour-China’s Clearwater Bay Open and the Hong Kong Open tennis and squash tournaments, and the first event on the European Tour’s 2019-20 calendar has now become another casualty.
The tournament could be rescheduled for early next year and European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said in a statement: “The decision has been taken due to the ongoing level of social unrest in Hong Kong.
“As the safety of our players, staff, stakeholders and everyone involved in each and every one of our tournaments around the world is our top priority, we feel this is the correct, but unfortunate, course of action.
“The European Tour thanks everyone at the Hong Kong Golf Association, the Hong Kong Golf Club and all persons associated with the Hong Kong Open for their hard work in endeavouring to stage the tournament and we look forward to hopefully returning early next year.”
Speaking to the PA news agency during the recent Turkish Airlines Open, Pelley said that he had no concerns over player safety.
“There are a couple of events that were happening right in the area (of the protests) but Fanling is not in that area,” Pelley said. “We’ll monitor it on a weekly basis but we’re comfortable with the tournament going ahead.”
Former Masters champion Patrick Reed was set to contest the event for the fourth time and told PA he had no concerns.
“No, not at all,” Reed said. “I talked to the European Tour, the tournament director and it’s completely safe to go over.”
The European Tour could now face claims for the cost of flights and hotels from players who planned to compete in Hong Kong instead of the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, which is being staged on the same dates.