No pandering

THE excitement surrounding the impending, albeit delayed, arrival of Tian Tian and Yang Guang, two giant pandas which have been “gifted” by the Chinese government (“Paws for thought as pandas delayed”, 23 November) has overshadowed names like Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo.

These are just two Chinese citizens who have felt the force of their government’s continued crackdown on freedom of expression and political dissent.

Just this month, the Chinese authorities persuaded its leading companies to step up the censorship of the internet and also threatened Ai Weiwei for “illegal fundraising” after donors gave the artist £500,000 towards a £1.5 million tax bill the authorities had manufactured out of thin air.

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Meanwhile Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” stemming from his involvement in the creation of a manifesto calling for political reform.

The agreement to bring Tian Tian and Yang Guang to Edinburgh Zoo has been said to represent the growing relationship between the Scottish and Chinese governments. However Amnesty hopes that this does not also represent a distraction from Scottish ministers raising concerns about China’s human rights record.

Shabnum Mustapha

Programme director, Amnesty International Scotland