China cooperates to enable theme park visits

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments have announced special visa arrangements making it easier for people living across the border in China’s massive industrial city Shenzhen to visit the Hong Kong Disneyland theme park.

Under normal rules migrant workers living in Shenzhen would have to return to their original homes to apply for a visa. New rules allow them to visit without visas on condition that they go as part of an organized tour group and do not travel anywhere else.

Some 8 million to 16 million people will be eligible under the new rules, which were announced Tuesday as part of the fifth phase in the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangements between Hong Kong and China, which have separate constitutional and legal systems.

Local newspapers described it as a “lifeline” for the park, which has failed to meet its visitor targets in its nearly three years of operation.

The new rules were quickly criticized as favoring a single business over other tourist attractions. Hong Kong Disneyland is 57%-owned by the Hong Kong government.

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