Hong Kong Disney Deal Criticized
Nov. 04, 1999
HONG KONG (AP) _ A Hong Kong member of the mainland Chinese congress has questioned the legality of the territory's deal to build a Disneyland theme park, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Hong Kong's agreement with the Walt Disney Co. involves a 50-year lease for the park site, on outlying Lantau Island, and includes an option to renew the lease for another 50 years.
But Ma Lik, a National People's Congress deputy from Hong Kong, was quoted as telling the Hong Kong Standard that the lease might run afoul of laws that were put in place when Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997.
Hong Kong was granted a great deal of autonomy for 50 years, but Ma said both Hong Kong's mini-constitution and the Chinese-British agreement on Hong Kong specify that any leases can run only for that period, until June 30, 2047.
``I doubt whether the government has the right to sign a deal which grants a lease lasting for 100 years,'' Ma was quoted as telling the Standard, an English-language daily.
``Even if the 50-year-long deal is signed immediately, and renewed for another 50 years, the first 50-year deal will expire two years beyond the year 2047.''
Ma expressed concerns that Disney could go to court and demand compensation if any problems with the lease emerge.
A Hong Kong government spokeswoman, Sunnie Lam, said Thursday morning she had no immediate comment. Disney spokesman Chris Fruean in Hong Kong also declined to comment.
The Standard quoted a source, whom it did not identify, as saying the government was aware of the matter and had discussed it with lawyers before making the theme park deal.
The planned Disneyland would be the third such park outside the United States, after Paris and Tokyo.
The cost comes to $3.55 billion when such items as necessary land reclamation and road and sewage construction are included.