September 05, 2006
Mickey gets it on

Hong Kong Disneyland is approaching its official one year anniversary*, with 5 million people trudging through the turnstiles of the park. That's well short of what was originally estimated from a park that has cost Hong Kong taxpayers billions.

One of the highlights of a visit to the magic kingdom is the street parade, where various characters cavort to Disney's greatest hits. It's a high visibility, high pressure job, and inevitably it leads to...

Four Filipino male performers have been dismissed from Hong Kong Disneyland for allegedly taking part in sexually explicit acts. Last month's incident, which happened in front of other staff, was filmed by a co-worker who anonymously passed it on to Disney...The cast members dismissed were involved in acts of a sexually indecent nature that were offensive to, or at least disturbing for, other employees," vice-president of public affairs Lo Bing-chung said. "We believe that any reasonable employer in Hong Kong would have acted the way we did."...

The four, lead performers in the daily parade, allegedly engaged in sexually explicit acts in the changing room after the parade. Three have returned to the Philippines and one is taking legal action.

That's from the SCMP. What's really amazing is the video isn't yet on YouTube. Mind you, this is the city where sex is all over the papers these days...also from the SCMP:
A 75-year-old woman who said she could not get by on her welfare payments was put on a good behaviour bond yesterday after she admitted providing sex services to a man 15 years her junior for HK$20.
There's no word if the proposed GST would have applied.

* Today also marks the 3rd anniversary of this web site. Happy birthday to it.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:02
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May 09, 2006
Assorted Hong Kong news

A few bits of Hong Kong news that, cobbled together, make up today's post.

1. There's been a fuss in recent days over the discovery that...prepare yourself...Hong Kong school kids cheat in their exams. In the English exam, the examinations authority gave the website that quotes were sourced from. Crafty students nicked off for toilet breaks, used their web enabled phones to look up the website and thus had all the answers for the fill-in-the-blanks questions on the paper. Naturally there's been an uproar, but I can't see why. If a pimply 18 year old student is able to out smart the worthies from the government education bureaucracy that set the exams, they should get full credit for their efforts. The exam rules did not, as far as I can tell, ban students from using their phones in this way while outside the examination room. If the exam setters are so stupid as to put URLs on the paper and the supervisors can't control the kids with their phones, they are the ones that should be punished, not the kids.

2. Better air quality top priority for Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department. That's a relief. But maybe charity begins at home. A disturbing report says that a staggering 86% of kids admitted to hospital with respiratory problems have dads that smoke at home. The mums find it too difficult to stand up for their kids' lungs at a risk of dmoestic tension with their chimney husbands.

3. Time magazine does a number on Disney's Hong Kong woes. Lots of reports of staff walkouts and worse at the not-so-magic-kingdom. Obviously well worth the massive subsidies the government put into it.

4. While on government subsidised boondoggles, Cyberport bursts to a massive 54% occupancy least in the corporate area, which is what was used to justify the project in the first place. Meanwhile PCCW's massive residential property developments are going great guns and with a far higher occupancy rate.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:05
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November 25, 2005
No room at the inn

Hong Kong's hotels have announced they no longer expect to be full during the upcoming WTO meeting, which again calls into question how much holding this event will cost Hong Kong. The Chinese embassy in Karachi gets a faxed statement warning luxury hotels in Hong Kong and China could be attacked, to which China says, "Go ahead, make my day." Hong Kong Disneyland announces it has passed the 1 million guest mark, if they include all the warm up days, visits by contractors and government officials, people that intended to go but didn't get around to it and double counting rabid dogs and beetles.

Meanwhile things keep getting better for Hong Kong's menfolk: the proportion of married women falls thanks to a gender imbalance, improved educational attainment of women, and a rising trend of Hong Kong men marrying Mainland women.

Welcome to Fantasy Island...."the plane, the plane!"

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:13
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November 21, 2005
The loneliest mouse

On her way back from APEC, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo enjoyed a day out at Hong Kong Disneyland with her family. She does not qualify for the current HK$50 discount on the admission price for locals. But the SCMP confirms anecdotal reports that HK Disneyland is woefully patronised.

A South China Morning Post headcount of visitors to Disneyland has revealed that fewer than 13,000 people visited on a weekend day less than a week after the amusement park introduced discounted rates for Hong Kong residents. Disney and the government have refused to reveal the park's daily attendance figures, but a count of visitors entering Disney carried out by the Post last week showed that 12,972 people visited on Sunday November 13, and 11,399 entered last Wednesday.
At the same time, David Webb is again asking the HK Government to install independent directors on the HKITP board, despite a promise in 1999 to do so. HKITP is the company overseeing Disneyland and has four Disney and 5 Government ministers as members. The Government put in about HK$22 billion out of the $27.5 billion the park cost, and got a 57% equity stake. Disney themselves have said the park has cost them US$100 million this year in losses.

If you can't work out why the Government put up 80% of the money for a 57% equity stake and 55% of board members, don't bother applying to join the world's best public service.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:44
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November 03, 2005
Privitising Disneyland

Every now and again even Legco can cause a surprise. And so it was yesterday, when Frederick Ma gave detailed costings of the Government's investment in Hong Kong Disneyland and told a Legco committee the Government may privitise its stake:

Less than two months after Disneyland Hong Kong opened, Frederick Ma said Wednesday that the government could sell off its 57 percent share in the theme park.

"In the long run, the government may consider, in the light of the big market, [the] small-government principle to divest its shareholdings in the company [Hong Kong International Theme Park Limited, a joint venture between US-based Walt Disney Corporation and the Hong Kong government], at an appropriate time when it is in the overall economic interests of Hong Kong to do so," Ma said during a Legco meeting...

Hong Kong Disneyland, Walt Disney's 11th theme park, is the only Disneyland to enlist a government as a shareholder.

"Big market, small government" in action:

Estimated spending on HK Disneyland by the HK SAR Government:

Reclamation and infrastructure works (roads, the Inspiration Lake Recreation Centre, decontaminating dioxin-laced soil and compensation to fishermen) = HK$13.6 billion

Land acquisition and clearance compensation = HK$1.6 billion

Equity injection into HKITPL = HK$3.3 billion

Loan to HKITPL = HK$6.1 billion

Waived claim to MTR Corp for dividends payable as support for the Disneyland Resort Line = HK$931 million

Total spent for HK$3.3 billion equity stake = HK$25 billion

Likely proceeds from privitisation, if Disney agrees (and I'm just guessing) = HK$3.5 billion

Combined with the repayment of the loan, total return to HK taxpayers = HK$9.6 billion

Total net loss to HK taxpayers = HK$15.4 billion

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:54
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October 20, 2005
Hong Kong's white mouse

Commonly in business and just like waistlines, you expand when things are going well and contract when they are not. Except in Hong Kong. Forbes reports on the government's latest attempt to throw more bad money after bad at Hong Kong Disneyland:

The government may be asked for funds to finance the proposed expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland if revenues from the theme park's operations and alternative funding sources are insufficient to meet the capital outlay, said Secretary for Economic Development and Labor Stephen Ip.

In a written reply today to a question from Legislative Council (LegCo) member Fred Li, Ip said theme park operator Hongkong International Theme Parks Ltd (HKITP), a joint venture between the government and Walt Disney Co, will generate earnings for use in further developing the park.

'If HKITP cannot finance the park expansion from the operational receipts or other funding sources and requires government equity injection or loans, this will be put to the finance committee of the council for consideration,' he said...Ip said the government and Walt Disney have agreed 'to keep up the momentum to develop the theme park and expand the number of rides and attractions to attract visitors to the theme park.'

The park can't pay for itself, so the government will continue to add funds. If only other businesses could tap into such largesse.
He said that a new attraction, Autopia, will be completed in 2006.
To be followed by the new White Elephant ride, taking in West Kowloon, Tamar and other outstanding examples and ending back at the White Mouse HQ.
'Other attractions will continue to be built, having regard to market demand,' he said. Ip did not say how much is required for the Disneyland expansion projects. He said the government will ensure that the HKITP's resources are properly used through government officials who sit on the joint venture's board.
Even better, the government could publicly release all the documentation related to HKITP so the actual owners of the park, Hong Kong's taxpayers, can see what the government has done on their behalf. Oh, wait, look, there's a flying elephant with floppy ears.
Ip said the development and operation of Disneyland cost some HK$14.1 bln which came from equity contributions from both the government and Walt Disney, as well as loans from the government and various financial institutions.

Of the total HK$14.1 bln development costs of Disneyland, the government injected HK$3.25 bln, while Walt Disney put in HK$2.45 bln. The rest of the funds used for the project came in the form of borrowings of HK$8.4 bln by the joint venture company HKITP, which is held 57 pct by the government, with the rest held by Walt Disney Co. Of the HK$8.4 bln loans, HK$6.1 bln was provided by the government, while the balance came in the form of commercial loans obtained by HKITP.

I've been through the maths of HK Disneyland's financing before. But it's still staggering that the government provided both equity and a large part of the debt to finance the park, not to mention the huge amount spent on reclamation, infrastructure and remedial work.

No wonder Mickey smiles so much.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:49
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September 26, 2005
David Webb does Disneyland

David Webb has a simple request to Hong Kong's Government: let the taxpayers of Hong Kong see the accounts, agreements and details of Hong Kong International Theme Parks Ltd. He also asks a rhetorical question: was this a good use of 280 hectares and why was there no tender?

Don't hold your breath waiting for answers.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 18:11
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September 12, 2005
Magical Mickey Maths

Boys, girls, Mr Vice President:

Today Hong Kong Disneyland opens. A world of fantasy and adventure, where nothing is quite as it seems. From the comfort of your PC you can take a tour of the numbers behind the scenes. Then finish off with a handy hint for anyone visiting Hong Kong's little piece of (culturally sensitive) Americana.

Magical Mickey Maths

Hong Kong Government's revenue projection over 40 years: HK$148 billion
Professor Lui Ting-ming's estimate of net benefit over 40 years: HK$32 billion

Figure Government is using to make projection: total revenues from park, jobs and tourism receipts.
Figure Professor Lui is using: net profits
Figure any business uses in assessing the return on investment: net profits

Number of jobs created by HK Disneyland: 5,000
Number of people employed in Hong Kong: approx. 3.5 million
Percentage of new jobs due to Disneyland: 0.14%

Average wage of Hong Kong non-management/professional employees: HK$10,382 a month
Average wage of Hong Kong Disneyland non-management/professional employees: take a guess

Hong Kong Disneyland size: 299 acres
Relative to Florida DisneyWorld: 1%
Difference in ticket prices: Hong Kong is 20% cheaper
Estimated time to walk Hong Kong Disneyland (without crowds): 30 minutes

Money spent by Hong Kong Government on Hong Kong Disneyland: US$3.3 billion
Money invested by Disney: approx. US$500 million
HK Government equity stake: 57%
Disney's equity stake: 43%
HK Government's share of spending: 82%

Early estimate of number of Guangdong tourists staying overnight in Hong Kong: 16.6%
Government's estimate: over 90%

Percentage of revenues that go to Disney under royalty and other agreements: "most" for the first 40 years
Professor of Economics Sunny Kwong Kai-sun's analysis of the Government's projected returns, employment benefits and flow-on economic effects: "too optimistic"

SCMP's view: Nor should we be overly worried about the financial figures; Disneyland in Florida and Paris opened with as much controversy, yet have become overwhelmingly as successful as Disney's other resorts.
Eurodisney's latest results: First half loss Euro53.4 million, estimated debt to equity ratio 716%
SCMP's definition of "overwhelmingly successful": dubious

Number of feral dogs caught: 40
Number of fish killed due to dredging work: 6.66 million
Noise during fireworks display: 56.9 decibels @ Discovery Bay
Legal limit: 55 decibels

Estimated opening date of Shanghai Disneland: 2010

Handy hint:

Everyone knows the fireworks are at 9pm. The trick to a trouble free visit is to get to the park around 8:45pm. If you're prepared to forgo the fireworks, the park is your oyster. No queues, no crowds. It only takes 30 minutes to circumnavigate the park, so with a bit of luck you can be back on the train before the crowds at 9:15pm.

One other hint: be careful of Donald Duck getting too friendly...not that there's anything wrong with that.


Hong Kong Disneyland: Build it and they will come
SCMP - "More figure than fact in projections of financial gain" (no link)
The Standard - Disney deal anger mounts
Hong Kong economy Wikipedia
Eurodisney Annual Report
The Standard - Guangdong tourists plan quick exits

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:58
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September 08, 2005
Mao Mickey blues

Marx said the history repeats twice: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. More proof he was right (for once):

The opening day crowds, expected to number up to half a million visitors, failed to materialise, however, and at close of the first day barely 50,000 people had passed through the gates.

The first phase of development (the theme park, hotel complex and golf course) had gone massively over budget, and had eventually cost 22 billion French Francs to complete. Over the next few months attendance figures failed to improve much, and by May the park was only attracting something like 25,000 visitors a day, instead of the predicted 60,000. Combined with the realisation that only 3 in every 10 visitors were native French, the Euro Disney company stock price started a rapid downward spiral, losing almost four fifths of its value. Combined with incredibly optimistic over-pricing of hotel rooms, meals and merchandise, the Park was headed for a disaster...The situation was worsened by the fact that the cheap dollar was persuading more and more people to forego Europe in favour of holidays in Florida at Walt Disney World.

EuroDisney was also over-populated with hotels, especially for a park that could be reasonably well explored within a full day. Coupled with high prices for food and souvenirs, the EuroDisney company started to close hotels during the winter months and even consider the seasonal closure of the Park itself.

All taken from this brief history of EuroDisney.

HK Disney is experiencing a variation of the problem: too many initial visitors rather than too few. More than 30% of those visitors wouldn't visit again. Phil has a first hand report of his visit to the park, detailing lengthy queues, overcrowding, few amusements and transport problems. After a charity day on the weekend that turned into a debacle, Disney has refused to lower the park's capacity of 30,000 despite being 17 times smaller than EuroDisney but similar attendance figures. They have also managed to annoy local residents with overly loud fireworks, have a cull of local dogs, ham-fisted (pun intended) attempts to offer shark-fin soup, and of course various environmentalists to boot.

It doesn't bode well. But why should I care? Because HK Disneyland has been primarily paid for by Hong Kong's taxpayers to the tune of over US$3 billion! A while back I posted on all the economics and numbers of Hong Kong Disneyland and it is even more disquieting reading now. Unsurprisingly, we've got a dud. What's worse is the likely ongoing increased costs of the park for HK taxpayers for a marginal increase in tourists in a city that has record tourist arrivals.

Alan Zeman of Ocean Park is beaming...and why wouldn't he smile? While the rest of Hong Kong suffers, it's good to know that there's at least one winner.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 18:54
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August 07, 2005
Mouse and dog

Even before wild, scavenging hordes of tourists descend on Hong Kong Disneyland, the Mouse Kingdom faces a more sinister threat. Simon Parry recycles his story from July 25th in today's SCMP:

Packs of wild dogs are scavenging for food in and around the Disney theme park, sparking management fears they could threaten guests and staff. Despite Disney having called in dog catchers to round up and cull about 40 strays inside the park over the past two months, the site is being plagued by hundreds of wild dogs that emerge from the hillsides after dark.
It is clear this is part of Disney's culturally sensitive cuisine policy to capture the Korean tourist market.

Part of the ongoing Hong Kong Disneyland series.

Simon Parry's original SCMP article on July 25th:

Dozens of stray dogs adopted by construction workers on the Disney theme park site have been rounded up and killed in the run-up to the park's opening in September. Forty-five dogs, some believed to have been used as unofficial guard dogs on the site during construction, have been caught by government dog catchers at Disney's request. About 40 are thought to have been given injections within days of arriving at government kennels; only three or four have been found a home by an animal welfare group. Two puppies are still seeking homes.

Hong Kong Dog Rescue says Disney did not contact the group before having the dogs rounded up, adding more could possibly have been saved if Disney had done so. Disney last night denied the strays had ever been officially used as guard dogs and said it had called in dog catchers because the animals were roaming in packs and posing a threat to staff on site.

Sally Andersen, founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue, which has tried to rehome the strays, said the dogs from the Penny's Bay site had turned up at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department kennels in Pokfulam "at an alarming rate" in recent months. Nearly all were unlicensed and had not been neutered or fitted with microchips by owners. They had been put to sleep within four days of arriving. "These dogs are friendly and healthy, as they have been fed and cared for by the site workers, but as building work is completed the dogs are simply abandoned and end up in the government kennels, where they are destroyed," she said.

"A company like Disney surely has some sort of moral obligation to take care of the dogs that have been used on their site as guard dogs. It's disgraceful that these dogs are simply thrown away like garbage." Fiona Woodhouse, deputy director of animal welfare for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said she was not aware of any contact from Disney, but did not rule out that the company had phoned for advice. "We couldn't have taken 50 adult mongrels and guaranteed to find them homes. What we could have done is advertise them and try to find them homes," she said.

"I don't think you can attach blame to Disney, but it would be nice to think they would follow their principles in terms of environmental concern and being ... very friendly towards animals, which feature so much in their cartoons," she said. Disney said it had contacted the SPCA when the dogs were being rounded up but had been told it was not possible to rehome so many. The SPCA had repeatedly had problems with dogs abandoned on construction sites, Ms Woodhouse said. Contractors involved always denied responsibility for the dogs and often refused SPCA workers access to try to capture strays, she said.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:42
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July 15, 2005
Boring Disneyland

The Beetles are taking over Hong Kong Disneyland. And it's not the Fab Four.

The SCMP reports wood-munching beetles have infested rooms in the not-yet-opened Disneyland hotel.

The bugs reportedly have been found in more than 100 rooms in the Disneyland hotel during the past two months, eating through television cabinets, wooden beds and coffee tables. It is understood furniture has been stripped from rooms and replaced ahead of the September 12 grand opening.

It is suspected the beetles were introduced to the 400-room hotel after burrowing into some of the furniture, imported from various mainland suppliers.

The species has not been identified but the chief suspect is the Asian long-horned beetle, a wood-eating insect exported in mainland shipments that has infested many countries, including the US.

The mainland invasion of Hong Kong Disneyland has begun.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:30
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June 22, 2005
Things that scare mice

Hong Kong Disney is still receiving plenty of criticism over its decision to serve shark fin soup. Doug Cret's article has this interesting paragraph:

Ko Wang, a professor of business at California State University, Fullerton, who studies Disney's corporate strategies, told The Standard that Hong Kong shouldn't expect too much from Disney at first, since the company had also flubbed its entrance into Paris and Tokyo, largely through cultural mistakes.

"As a shareholder, there is not much that a government can do,'' said Wang.

More proof of the value of Hong Kong's investment in the park. You would have thought Disney would have learnt some lessons from its previously experiences. But apparently it's not elephants we are dealing with here.

Moreover a company as PR aware as Disney has scored another resounding shot in the foot. From today's SCMP letters page:

Here's to you Mr Robinson, Disney loves you more than we all do...

Tell me why, Mr Robinson [Disneyland Hong Kong group managing director Don Robinson], you and your public relations team refuse any contact with a polite, environmentally aware group of Year Nine students from West Island School, who wish to hand in a petition expressing concern over the inclusion of shark's fin soup on the menu.

I wish to voice my horror at your company's discourtesy, unhelpfulness and lack of sensitivity. Is it really necessary to block phone calls from a 13-year-old, who wants to make an appointment to hand in a petition?

Are you really that afraid of a group of secondary school students?


Now you know what mice are scared of. Disney's head-in-the-sand approach to this issue has been a PR disaster...except with the market they care about the most: the Mainland tourism market.

Part of the Hong Kong Disneyland series.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:24
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June 16, 2005
It's begun

In the same week when a young boy dies on a Disney World ride, the marketing campaign for Hong Kong Disneyland is gearing up...


September 12th can't come soon enough - the sooner we get through this the better.

Part of the ongoing Hong Kong Disneyland series.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:16
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June 13, 2005

Part of the Hong Kong Disneyland series.

The House the Mouse Built (with more than a little help from Hong Kong's taxpayer) is in all sorts of bother as the grand opening approaches in September.

As mentioned in my analysis of the economics of Hong Kong Disneyland, this site is by far the smallest park in the Disney stable. Yet the ticket prices are practically the same. Disney employees and their families had a trial run visit through the park on the weekend...and what was their impression?

The SCMP reports:

Hong Kong Disneyland opened its doors to 2,000 staff members and their families in a special trial yesterday, with some saying the park is too small...Some staff members said only 60 to 70 per cent of the park was opened yesterday as many attractions were still being built. The two hotels, the Hollywood Hotel and Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, 11 rides and some shows were open.

David Holts, a staff interior decorator, said he was satisfied with the facilities and decoration but thought there were too few attractions. "Compared with other Disneylands, it is much smaller," said Mr Holts who has worked in the Tokyo and Florida theme parks.

Ms Lam, another worker's relative, said she had been to Disney parks in Los Angeles and Paris and Hong Kong's park was as good, even if it was a little smaller.

Remember, these are the family and friends of Disney employees calling it small. Well at least they've learnt the lessons of Ocean Park and made it more child friendly, avoiding hills? Umm....
Michael Warzocha, the park's graphic designer, said the hilly terrain made the Hong Kong theme park unique.
It's half-built on reclaimed land! Did they create hills for it?

Let's move on to the shark fin soup controversy, seemingly in direct contradiction to Disney's policies. In an inept PR damage-control exercise Disney said they would hand out pamphlets to those who order the soup, telling them why it's wrong to eat it...while patrons eat it. On the same basis Disney could sell cigarettes. Today's Standard reports Disney will source the shark fins from "reliable and responsible suppliers", which green groups say is impossible. Even if it is true, Disney's purchases may simply force those who normally buy from such operators to instead go to more unsavoury sources. Legislator Choy So-yuk also disputed Disney's contention that the serving of the soup is justified because it is a Chinese custom.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:59
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May 25, 2005
Disney's shark attack

Part of the ongoing Hong Kong Disneyland series.

Hong Kong Disneyland is lying low in the controversy over its plan to serve shark fin soup. Doug Crets in today's Standard reports on the growing criticism from environmentalists and the start of an email campaign to Disney CEO Michael Eisner over the issue.

You can help.

Let's start by looking what Disney's own website says:

Under the title "Environmentality" (that's a word?):

Environmental Impact

Identify and understand the direct and indirect impact that Disney facilities, operations, business practices, products and services may have on health, safety and the environment. Identify potential areas of concern and develop pro-active guidelines.

Promote wildlife and habitat conservation through partnerships with the scientific and academic communities, and organizations committed to preserving the earth's biodiversity.

That doesn't gel with Disney's lame "but everyone else serves shark fin soup so we will too". Disney runs a Wildlife Conversation Fund and trumpets their "green" credentials. They even publish an "Enviroport" (what is it with Disney and mangled English?) showcasing their "significant environmental accomplishments".

So what can you do? Join the campaign. For a start you can go to HK Disneyland's website, go to the "Ask Jacky (Cheung)" section and ask why they plan to serve shark fin soup and watch Jade to see if he answers. Alternatively you can ask via their feedback form.

Other reading

Phil exposes the fallacy of the cultural excuse.
A short CNN story of the problems of shark fin.
A link to a full report on the devastation the shark fin soup trade is having on sharks.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:02
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May 24, 2005
Mickey the triad?

Part of the ongoing Hong Kong Disneyland series.

Hong Kong Disneyland is copping flak for offering shark fin soup on its menu. You'd better stop complaining or they'll set the triads onto you. Don't believe me? If Tokyo Disneyland can use yakuza to clean, you can rest assured the Disney folks will stop at nothing...From now on expect all my posts about our friendly new Lantau neighbours to be bright and complimentary.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:52
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May 23, 2005
There's a shark in my soup

Part of the ongoing Hong Kong Disneyland series.

The makers of Finding Nemo, the environmentally friendly yet culturally sensitive mouseketeers at HK Disneyland, are intending to serve shark fin soup. The BBC estimates Hong Kong alone imported the fins of 28 million sharks in 1999.

Disney public relations manager Esther Wong, who confirmed The Standard report, said in a prepared statement, "Hong Kong Disneyland takes environmental stewardship very seriously and we are equally sensitive to the local cultures. It is customary for Chinese restaurants and 5-star hotels to serve shark fin soup in Hong Kong as the dish is considered as an integral part of Chinese banquets.''

When asked if Hong Kong Disneyland had chosen to offer the dish, which is illegal in many countries, at the behest of the territory's tourism board, Wong denied this was the case. Disney's policy, found on its Web site, states the company will "work to identify issues that may not yet be identified in the law, but could result in adverse environmental effects.''

Disney is believed to be working a new variety of the soup...

Mouse ear soup: (from The Standard)


Other reading

Glenzo is also on the shark fin soup case.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:07
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April 18, 2005
Hong Kong Disneyland Watch

An ongoing series on Hong Kong Disneyland.

Jake van der Kamp in today's SCMP

Do you remember how the Disney boosters in our government told us that the big plus in setting up a Disney theme park here would be the enormous increase we would get in visitor arrivals to Hong Kong? They appear to be looking at that big increase a little differently now, with the park set to open within months. They are still asking how we can get these visitors here but not in terms of how we can induce them to come. The problem is rather how we can get them through the chokepoints, if we can at all.

What it all comes down to is that the Disney park is indeed likely to bring a boost to our economy, a cost boost. We will have to invest yet more billions to upgrade border crossings, roads and other infrastructure facilities so that visitors to Hong Kong can spend money on goods and services that do not come from Hong Kong and are largely provided by migrant service workers. Others will get the benefit. We will get the cost.

But in the end that was always how it was likely to be. The difference is that we already have more than twice as many visitors arriving each day as we did when the Disney park was first mooted. We never really needed it and all it will do now is make our congestion problems even worse. It is our misfortune that the one chokepoint that could do us some good, the one that chokes off spending public funds for tourist-related projects that never give us a decent return, is the only one we will never get.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:29
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February 16, 2005
Hong Kong's Disneyland hotels

With much fanfare Disney announced their two hotels for the HK Disneyland site are open for bookings. Bargain rates are on offer, thanks partly to Disney's itself. Peter Lowe, general manager of hotel operations, said:

The hotels will offer a tremendous return for the city.
But that's not the case at all. HK's Government has invested literally billions in Disneyland. As a taxpayer I eagerly await my dividend cheque from these hotels' profits. Or at least a free stay. They look, ummmm, interesting. The Resort and the Hollywood Resort.

I'll take the cheque, thanks. It's the least we can expect from a multi-billion dollar Government subsidy investment.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:49
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February 14, 2005
Taking the Mickey

Excitement is building as the opening of HK Disneyland approaches. The latest example in HK's history of non-collusive public boondoogles is due to open in September. The SCMP, grateful for a press release to pad it out, covers the exciting design and opening of the fire station at Disneyland:

How do you design a fire and police station that is functional yet part of the Disney fantasy? Hong Kong government architects hope they have found the answer - paint it green and keep it low key..."We [the Government architects] went to Orlando's Disneyland during vacation to look at theirs [fire station]. Things are very different there but they still made us understand what standards the theme park is looking for," he said.

Total construction cost is around $16 million, about 15 per cent more than a conventional one.

Tough job. Just add that cost to the bill. The station has been open for a year already. But they haven't been able to put out their first fire. Will RIFA become the first local Disney character?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:15
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January 20, 2005
Come see it all

Hong Kong bills itself as "Asia's World City". To prove it, the Government went as far as to build the world's first publicly owned Disneyland. And the Government's love affair with property developers is well known. But now it's time to put up or shut up. Is Hong Kong really the cosmopolitan, global city it purports to be? Is it a place where business can be done, no matter what it takes?

A group have proposed to open HK's and Asia's first official nudist colony. The development would include houses fronting on to the nudist beach, thus combining HK's love of property and tourism with another bow in the quiver that Singapore will never have. But even if the project is approved, one question remains?

Will Tung Che-hwa open the development and what (if anything) will he wear?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:24
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November 23, 2004
Build it and they will come

Hong Kong's newest white elephant will "soon" be open for business. Hong Kong Disneyland opens on September 12th next year. The good news is the park will be the cheapest Disney in the world...except on "special days". A better name would be "days when you are actually likely to go", such as weekends, public holidays, golden week holidays and all of July and August. On those days the price jumps 20%. Once inside gastronomic delights await, also at "special" prices. But this is a "soft opening" with only a few rides will be open. It is full price but the rest of the park is not due to open for another year or more.

The press release gushes:

The park has so far created 11,400 jobs during construction and another 18,000 are expected to be created in phases by opening day. The theme park is also forecast to inject HK$148 billion into Hong Kong's economy.
That HK$148 billion is spread over 40 years and not discounted for the time value of money. Even at face value that's HK$3.7 billion a year. In return let me give you some other numbers about Disneyland HK:
Visitors expected in Year One: 5.5 million
Visitors expected in 2020: 10 million
Size of Complex: 299 acres
Size ratio of Florida's Disney World to HK Disneyland: 100:1
Money spent by HK Government on Infrastructure: US$1.7 billion (Ed.- this number is now US$2.8 billion)
Cost of 57% equity stake in the Park: US$417 million
The park is 1% of the size of Florida's DisneyWorld, yet the cost difference is 22% (see graphic after the jump). Also note that to date Hong Kong has actually spent HK$22.5 billion on infrastructure and HK$3.25 billion for a majority stake in the park. In return Disney has an equity stake, land reclaimed, infrastructure and transport links (including a rail line) and a royalty arrangement that will provide a massive return on its investment. The Government is getting a nebulous "return" of HK$3.7 billion (without discounting) on its investment of HK$25 billion plus. That HK$3.7 billion no doubt includes tourist spending, Disney's revenue and the like. Let's be generous and say 1/3 of that HK$3.7 billion actually flows back to Government coffers via taxes on wages (HK has no sales tax). That leaves HK$1.23 billion per year, or a return of just under 5% per annum. Hong Kong's Government would have been better off investing in long term bonds, which have none of the risks and the same return. Asia Times had a good look at the numbers as well.

The sloppily drawn contract between Disney and Hong Kong does not even have a clause preventing Disney from opening other parks in China. Also not mentioned in the press release are the massive cost over-runs due to dioxin in the soil at the Penny Bay site (and more besides from FoE) and the pollution problem means the slight change in the orientation of the park will still not give any views for much of the year. Chalk it as a win for Disney shareholders and a massive loss for Hong Kong. What's worse is now we've got the West Kowloon boondoggle.

Hong Kong: home of astute investment, big Government, white elephants and wasted money. This makes HarbourFest look like child's play. Mike Rowse is getting hauled over the coals for that debacle. For Disneyland, you get this...

Mickey learns of the size of Henry Tang's (HK Financial Secretary) subsidy.


NOTE: Read more about Hong Kong Disneyland.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:28
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September 23, 2004
Mickey meet Mao

If you can't beat 'em, make 'em join. The Disney company, always first with innovative marketing techniques, has found a way to develop its brand in China: use the Communist Youth League.:

"In one session, we teach them to draw Mickey Mouse -- they're all amazed by that," said Irene Chan, vice president for public affairs at Hong Kong Disneyland...China limits the number of overseas films that can be shown and restricts foreign TV programming, which means most mainland consumers do not have deep awareness of Disney stories.
Another domino falls before the might of the Mouse. It won't be long before a million phones ring with "Its a small world" around China.

In times past it would have seemed perverse for two such different organisations to be working together for commercial gain. Today it's par for the course.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:13
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