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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Pandas help cement China links

The following is a copy of the body of a letter that I have sent to The Herald newspaper.  It will be interesting to see if it will be published!

"It would appear that the most important event to occur, in Scotland, on Sunday, was the arrival of two animals - albeit giant pandas!  Mind you, one could have been forgiven for thinking that they are more than animals, what with bagpipes being played as they arrived at Edinburgh Airport, and the pilot assuring us that they had "enjoyed the trip"!

What was not emphasised as much was the cost of having these cuddly animals in Edinburgh Zoo - £700,000/annum over their 10-year visit, with an additional £70,000/annum for their diet of bamboo shoots.  In these days of austerity, in which we are all supposed to be "in it together", it would appear that giant pandas are exempt!

Of course, this is all part of a "cultural exchange", our First Minister assured us on the evening news bulletins on Saturday.  I am sure that the indomitable Mr Salmond will, with his entourage, do a very good job for Scottish exports of salmon and whiskey.  I would be delighted if, in his discussions with Chinese officials, Mr Salmond would be brave enough to raise the subject of China's appalling human rights record.  Might he mention the case of Gao Zhisheng - a prominent human rights lawyer, who was arrested more than five years ago; detained without trial; allegedly tortured; released briefly at the beginning of last year, but re-arrested in April; and who has not been seen since?  His wife, and their two young daughters are now in the USA and, understandably, long to be reunited with their husband and father, respectively.

This is just one instance from a catalogue of persecution of anyone who dares to speak up for the oppressed in China.  As we improve Scotland's relationship with that vast country, let us be careful that we do not become tainted with its brutality!"

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