The government will not bow to pressure during negotiations on the expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland and ignore the sustainability of the park's operation, the minister for economic development has said. In an interview, Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan said the media had suggested that Disney's decision to lay off staff was intended to put pressure on the government. 'But to me, pressure cannot be exerted through such tactical moves. 'Our negotiation is for Hong Kong to sustain the operation of the theme park in the long term, which is the prerequisite,' she added. The Post revealed last week that more than 30 staff had lost their jobs at Walt Disney Imagineering's Hong Kong-based team last Monday. They are mainly responsible for master planning, designing and developing theme parks. The US entertainment giant said it acted after being told by the government there was no timetable on the Hong Kong theme park's expansion. 'I don't want to read too much into the company's decision, and it's also not for me to defend them,' Mrs Lau said, reaffirming the government's stance that cutting staff would not help the discussions. But she said the layoffs might not be unreasonable, as the decision had been made by its parent company in the US, where the economy had been hit badly. Also, the staff might not have had any new tasks on hand after the completion of the newest attraction, It's a Small World, last year. 'We have told them to reconsider the layoffs and expressed our concern, but it's impossible for us to impede its decision.' She said she believed the workers would be rehired when both sides agreed on the expansion plans. 'Will we stop the discussions because of [the layoffs]? We are not that irrational.' Asked whether the government would speed up negotiations in light of the layoffs, Mrs Lau said it had a process for the talks and would stick to it. It is understood that the two parties commenced the complex talks less than a year ago, although Disney said the negotiations had already been going on for two years. Without any indication of a timetable, and given the need for the Legislative Council's approval, which could take three months or more, it is unlikely that the expansion could go ahead this year. Mrs Lau said negotiations on the designs had not reached the final stages, pointing out that the government needed to know what the new attractions would be and whether they would fit the market's appetite. 'We have to fight for a good deal incorporated with public interests in the long run. This must be our stance. Come what may, we must keep to it.'