Shanghai Disney snack ban row reaches China state media

Mandy Zuo

Chinese state media has weighed into a row over the Shanghai Disney resort’s ban on outside snacks, accusing the Walt Disney Company of “double standards” a week after the issue generated widespread interest among China’s online community.

A Chinese college student is suing the Shanghai park for refusing her entry with food she had bought elsewhere. The case was reported by mainland media last week and picked up on Chinese social media, where most commenters were sympathetic to her cause.

The student, a woman surnamed Wang from East China University of Political Science and Law, filed an action in March against Shanghai International Theme Park, a co-owner of the resort, after staff checked her bag and stopped her from bringing in food during a visit in late January.

On Wednesday, People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, accused Walt Disney Company of adopting double standards in its Asian parks and those in the West, where it said the same rules did not apply.

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“As a multinational company, Disney doesn’t just have parks in Asia – the rule doesn’t apply to those in Europe and America,” the People’s Daily commentary read. “If banning outside food is understandable, going through visitors’ bags by hand is an infringement of consumers’ privacy and dignity,” it continued.

The company responded to state broadcaster CCTV over the weekend that the ban was consistent with most theme parks in China, as well as with other Disney parks in Asia. “If visitors bring their own food and beverages, they may enjoy them in the rest area outside the park,” it said.

Wang told China Youth Daily last week that she was not notified of the ban before purchasing her ticket, and she eventually threw away the snacks, which cost her more than 40 yuan (US$5.70), after being informed that to leave them in a rental locker would cost 80 yuan. Her ticket could not be refunded if she chose not to enter the park, she said.

A 75 yuan burger meal at the Shanghai Disney resort, where some visitors have complained of high priced tickets and food. Photo: Thomas Yau

The case, which is ongoing, had its first hearing at a court in Pudong New Area in April. Wang is seeking the abolition of the policy and compensation of 46.3 yuan, the value of the discarded snacks.

While many felt similarly unhappy about the food ban, some web users noted it was a common practice in the Chinese theme park industry which had usually been overlooked by supervisors.

“Not just Disney, there are so many theme parks on the mainland that ban outside food and beverages and search visitors’ bags. There have been plenty of such consumer complaints being ignored over the years. Let’s treat all of them fairly,” one commenter said on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service.

Disney opened the Shanghai resort – its biggest and most costly international project – in June 2016. It has consistently been one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists, but has also attracted complaints about its prices for tickets and food.

The company has not responded to a request for comment.

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