Disney pressured to help ease HK’s housing crisis


HONG KONG • Walt Disney Co is the latest company under pressure to help alleviate Hong Kong’s housing woes that have been partly blamed for months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The city’s housing minister has said he wants to build temporary homes on a 60ha patch of land the entertainment giant holds for potential expansion of its Disneyland.

Disney, which has seen visitors to its Hong Kong theme park plunge over the past few months because of the political protests, hasn’t revealed any future plans for the facility.

Under a 20-year agreement between the Hong Kong government and Disney in 2000, the site can’t be used for housing projects. Disney has the option to renew this pact for 10 more years, giving it enough time to decide on the expansion.

A representative for Disney in Hong Kong didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We hope Disney can consider corporate social responsibility and exempt the site from its contractual restrictions, allowing it to be used for transitional housing,” Frank Chan, secretary for transport and housing told lawmakers on Monday.

Unaffordable property prices in Asia’s financial hub have been identified by Beijing and local authorities as a cause of social anger as the city grapples with months-long pro-democracy protests.

The demonstrations, which sometimes turned violent, have battered the economy, crushed the retail and tourism sectors and even challenged some of the city’s richest developers.

Some local tycoons have offered to donate land back to the government to avert any backlash from Beijing.

Wheelock Properties Ltd announced plans in late December to give away several plots of land for affordable housing, following similar moves by New World Development Co Ltd and Henderson Land Development Co Ltd.

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, who founded the ports-to-telecommunications conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd, offered HK$1 billion (RM532.1 million) to help small businesses hit by the protests.

In November, Disney said operating income at the Hong Kong theme park could decline by about US$275 million (RM1.13 billion) in the fiscal year ending September if the demonstrations continued.