Student activists first to hear Disney U-turn

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 June, 2005, 12:00am

Disney conceded defeat in its month-long battle over the serving of shark's fin at its Hong Kong theme park during a meeting with a group of 13-year-old children organising a boycott of the park.

Officials from Disney on Friday visited West Island School, where they were presented with a petition signed by more than 500 pupils, and told the youngsters the dish was being withdrawn.

Those who signed the petition pledged not to buy Disney products or visit the theme park while shark's fin was being served.

Disney's vice-president for public affairs, Irene Chan Man-tuen, said the pupils were the first to know of Disney's decision.

'I told them about our decision to remove shark's fin soup from our banquet menu and they welcomed this decision,' she said.

Hours later, Disney released a statement saying it had removed the dish from its menus.

Ms Chan said the decision to remove shark's fin had been taken before the meeting with the students and was not related to the threatened boycott. But she said it had been an appropriate forum for breaking the news.

Disney had earlier insisted it would serve shark's fin on request at the Disneyland hotel, saying it had a duty to be 'sensitive to local cultures'. The school petition accused Disney of using Chinese culture as a scapegoat.

'Walt Disney himself made a speech that all of us, including Disneyland staff, should protect the environment as 'the stewards of nature',' the students wrote. 'Disney is a large organisation and is influential to other companies. If Disney makes a stand and refuses to sell shark's fin soup, others will follow by example. Walt Disney would be proud of this legacy.'

The WWF said it hoped other hotels and restaurants in Hong Kong would be pressured into dropping shark's fin from their menus as a result of Disney's actions. 'I have no doubt this will be a landmark decision,' Markus Shaw, of WWF Hong Kong, said.