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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2005, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Uniform row rocks HK Disneyland
Minnie and Mickey Mouse at Hong Kong Disneyland
The theme park has attracted criticism from animal rights groups
Local officials have clashed with Hong Kong Disneyland after it ordered health officers investigating food poisoning cases to remove their caps and badges.

The row comes ahead of the theme park's official opening on Monday.

Hong Kong officials, angered that food inspectors were asked to take off their uniforms to avoid scaring clients, have told Disney it is "not above the law".

Disney has apologised for its action - made during open days last month - and has promised to comply with local laws.

The embarrassment is the latest in a series of setbacks for the $1.8bn (1bn) theme park, set to be the Disney group's second in Asia, after Tokyo.

'No special rights'

The row risks overshadowing the opening festivities, which start on Saturday.

China's Vice President Zeng Qinghong is due to attend the official opening ceremony on Monday.

The health inspectors were called in after three cases of food poisoning, still under investigation, were reported in two of the park's restaurants from "rehearsal days" ahead of the opening.

The two officers complied when they were asked to dress less conspicuously - but the request has been widely criticised by government officials.

"Anyone in Hong Kong has to obey the law. Disney isn't above the law," Security Secretary Ambrose Lee is quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.

Financial Secretary Henry Tang said: "We welcome Disney to come to Hong Kong to invest in Disneyland, but in the process of building Disneyland, no-one has special rights. Everyone is equal before the law."

An editorial in the Ming Pao Daily News says Hong Kong residents suspect Disney "wants to engineer special rights and turn the theme park into an independent kingdom that Hong Kong laws can't reach".

Hong Kong's government has issued a statement saying police officers will not need permission to enter the site on the outlying Lantau island.

The park faced criticism from animal welfare groups in July, after reports local officials had been called in to destroy at least 40 dogs roaming the site.

A month earlier, it withdrew shark fin soup from planned banquet menus after campaigners condemned the dish, a local luxury, as cruel and ecologically destructive.

Disney hopes the park will tap into Hong Kong's appeal to newly-wealthy mainland Chinese and their children as a shopping and leisure centre.

Dogs' fate gnaws at HK Disneyland
26 Jul 05 |  Business
HK Disney scraps shark's fin soup
25 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
HK Disney answers soup critics
09 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Shark fins land HK Disney in soup
24 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Disney appeals to China's youth
23 Sep 04 |  Business
Taking the shark out of soup
27 Aug 02 |  Science/Nature

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