'More than meets the eye' in Disney talks

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 March, 2009, 12:00am

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan said the complex negotiations on expanding Disneyland involved more than just financing, and that the government was fighting for the best possible deal from the Walt Disney Company.

Grilled by lawmakers Chan Kam-lam and Fred Li Wah-ming in the Legislative Council yesterday, Mrs Lau remained tight-lipped about the proceedings but said she hoped more details would emerge in the coming months.

'When it comes to a negotiation, it's impossible for us to disclose the process publicly. But we would certainly uphold this important principle - that is, Hong Kong taxpayers have incurred so much expenditure in this project and we must safeguard public interest,' Mrs Lau said.

'On the face of it, you [might] think they do not require an additional investment for the expansion project to go forward. I can say that there is more than meets the eye ... If that's really the case, I would have signed the contract the first time it was presented to me. We must hold some bargaining chips.'

Disney has said it is willing to foot the bill to expand the theme park but negotiations have dragged on. The government holds a 57 per cent stake in the joint venture with Disney.

'I think we have a consensus that it should be expanded and that more attractive facilities should be provided to visitors,' Mrs Lau said.

'But the negotiation must be based on the premise that we should fight for Hong Kong people's legitimate interests. But we are not under any threat.

'What is important now is that we can reach an agreement with the Disney management as soon as possible, and we would certainly like to see it completed soon.'

Mrs Lau said she would not be drawn into setting a deadline for negotiations despite Disney's decision last week to halt all creative and design work on the park's expansion. Disney blamed the move on the lack of a timetable.