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Mouse Zedong? Disney opens its gates in Hong Kong

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  • Mouse Zedong? Disney opens its gates in Hong Kong

    Mouse Zedong? Disney opens its gates in Hong Kong

    Jonathan Watts in Hong Kong
    Monday September 12, 2005
    The Guardian

    The head of those walking through Main Street USA will be China's vice-president Zeng Qinghong, joining a cast including Mickey, Goofy, the Disney chief executive, Michael Eisner, and Hong Kong's leader, Donald Tsang, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that highlights the hybrid nature of modern China, where the desire to make money is now the dominant ideology. CriticismEnvironment

    But success is far from assured. "I'm not convinced there is a Disney mania in Hong Kong," said Lui Tailok, sociology professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "People under 35 are more familiar with Japanese animations and manga than Disney. For us Winnie the Pooh is an alien."

    Opposition groups who have accused Disney of restricting union rights and lacking environmental awareness held a protest concert yesterday. "We want people to know that Disney is no dreamworld. It brings many problems for our environment, labour relations, economy and culture," said Rex Zhang of Disneyhunter, a student organisation.

    But the authorities in Beijing seem to have more mixed feelings about a Disney-led US cultural invasion. Although China has tightened restrictions of foreign ownership of domestic media and releases of overseas films, its measures have failed to stem a flood of pirate DVDs of Hollywood films.

    Francis Lui, professor of economics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, says the government may now have more sympathy with the old-fashioned values depicted in Disney's classic films: "Ideology is totally unimportant in China now. All that matters is business. And Disney is no threat to the Communist party. Both are very conservative in their outlook."

    Disney has already set aside enough land to double in size. If it proves successful, many analysts predict a Disneyland for Shanghai in 2012. Whether Mao or Walt will emerge as the greater power is still to be seen. But in Disney's new Asian territory, there is little doubt who is boss. As the last visitors drifted home last night, loudspeakers piped out a tune now familiar across the world: "Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? M-I-C K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E."

    At a glance

    125 hectares developed, with room to double in size (compared with 180 hectares in Tokyo)

    Expected to have 5.6 million visitors in its first year, two-thirds from China and south-east Asia


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