Shanghai villagers told to make way for Disney park

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am

Work on Shanghai's Disneyland - set to pose serious competition to the struggling Hong Kong Disney park for the crucial mainland tourist trade - could begin as early as the first half of next year, villagers living on the site have been told.

This emerged little more than two weeks after the city's mayor, Han Zheng, announced that Beijing's approval had been sought for the park to go ahead.

If the start date is confirmed it would mean the first phase would be operating soon after the 2010 World Expo shoves the city into international spotlight.

About 4 sq km of land belonging to four villages in the Chuansha area of Pudong have been earmarked for the park, according to villagers who have been told they will have to move to nearby Shilong.

About 3,200 families, many of them farmers, live in the four villages - Qigan, Zhaoxing, Jiajia and Xueqiao, about 40 minutes' drive from the city centre.

Residents said leaders of their village production teams, who told them about the plans, had said Qigan and Zhaoxing were earmarked for the first phase and they would have to go by early next year.

The Hong Kong government would not comment on whether it knew of the plan before Mr Han's disclosure on March 6.

A non-executive director of Hong Kong Disneyland is understood to have been told informally during a visit to Shanghai in February.

The Shanghai city government was also non-committal, with a spokesman saying: 'We don't have any particular department to deal with questions about Disney.'

Alannah Hall-Smith, Disney's vice-president for corporate communications in Asia Pacific, said: 'There is no deal and there is no announcement.'

A Qigan resident, giving his name only as Mr Hua - the village's clan name - pointed to a field in front of him, saying: 'This is where they said a Disneyland will be built. The whole area, about 4 sq km.'

He said he had 'no special feeling' about the plans, although he didn't want to move. 'They've been talking about it for 10 years but nothing has happened so far,' he said.

A woman said most people did not want to move.

'We have a quiet and inexpensive life here,' she said. 'We farm and eat what we produce, and things are also cheap here. They said the Disneyland in Hong Kong was too crowded and a new one was needed to be built in Shanghai. Is it true?'

Despite the imminent move, villagers say there has been no word on compensation.

Mr Han broke the news about the Disney plan on the sidelines of the National People's Congress meeting in Beijing.

He said the project would be divided into several stages to reduce commercial risk and avoid any extreme impact on the Disneyland in Hong Kong, which is battling to meet its attendance targets.

Mr Han made a similar announcement in Beijing in 2006 but the plan was put on hold after the then-Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu was implicated later that year in a corruption scandal involving social security funds.

Apo Leong, director of Asia Monitor Resources Centre, said: 'Disney should comply with international standard on resettling those affected. It should discuss it with the people, instead of just telling them to leave. It also needs to comply with international environmental standards.'

Get going

Villagers, most of them farmers, have been told to uproot from their homes in the Chuansha area of Pudong

The number of families residing in the four affected villages is 3,200