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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 08:06 GMT 09:06 UK
Disney launches new HK theme park
Top officials and cartoon characters attend the opening of Disney's Hong Kong theme park.

Disney has opened a new $1.8bn (1bn) theme park in Hong Kong, the firm's biggest foray into the Chinese market.

Hong Kong Disneyland, based on Lantau Island, is expected to attract more than five-and-a-half million visitors in its first year.

The project is 57% owned by the Hong Kong government, and is expected to generate $19bn over the next 40 years.

Characters such as Alice in Wonderland sing and speak in Cantonese, while Chinese food is sold around the park.

The theme park was opened by Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong and other guests included Hong Kong's chief executive Donald Tsang and Disney boss Michael Eisner.

Guests watched a traditional Chinese lion dance performed in front of an enormous fairytale-style castle.

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.

Inspection row

On the eve of the opening ceremony, local officials clashed with the theme park after it ordered health officers investigating food poisoning cases to remove their caps and badges.

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

Map

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

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.

The resort - the Disney group's second in Asia, after Tokyo - suffered a series of setbacks in the run-up to its official opening.

It faced criticism from animal welfare groups in July, after reports that 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.




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See the opening of the latest Disney theme park




SEE ALSO:
Uniform row rocks HK Disneyland
10 Sep 05 |  Asia-Pacific
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


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