Lawmakers debate HKD5.4 bil. bailout as Ocean Park’s fate hangs in the balance

Photo (for illustration): Ocean Park
Photo (for illustration): Ocean Park

Ocean Park’s future continues to hang in the balance after lawmakers failed to decide on a government-proposed HKD5.4 billion bailout package for the theme park yet again.

During a Finance Committee at LegCo today, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the government was studying ways to “reposition” Ocean Park and “revamp” its operating models in order to generate income.

However, lawmakers spent most of the meeting expressing their doubts about the plan, and ended the meeting without a vote for the second time, following a previous meeting on Friday that ended similarly.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho said Ocean Park’s facilities were “outdated”, and proposed moving Ocean Park to Hong Kong Disneyland instead and merging the two attractions.

Steven Ho of the pro-establishment DAB party expressed some support for the bailout, citing the park’s so-called status as “Hongkongers’ collective memory”.

Other lawmakers from both camps were less enthusiastic, with pro-Beijing legislator Felix Chung saying, “All businesses are facing similar difficulties now,” and asking why Ocean Park didn’t ask for help from banks, rather than taxpayers.

Democratic lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, of the welfare sector, asked if the government had done a survey to see if citizens were even interested in keeping Ocean Park afloat.

In a press conference last week, Ocean Park executives revealed that the park would go bankrupt in June without financial aid and appealed to the government for help.

The park, which has been in operation for 43 years, has been shut since the COVID-19 outbreak hit Hong Kong in January. (Although we do know that at least one good thing has come out of the park being closed.)

The jobs of 2,000 full time workers and 2,000 part-time workers are at risk. Ocean Park CEO Matthias Li has also stated that the park could not guarantee the welfare of its 7,500 animals without a cash injection from the government.

The government had previously proposed to give Ocean Park a HKD10.64 billion package to fund long-term improvements to the park, like the reopening of a long-shuttered water park, and the construction of a high-end hotel.

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