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Pandas help raise China human rights debate

The arrival of Chinese pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang at Edinburgh Zoo has generated a lot of media, including cutesy pictures galore and a multitude of puns of the ‘eats, shoots and leaves’ variety.

At Amnesty Scotland we like pandas as much as the next person, but believe they should not distract from the issue of China’s human rights failings.

First Minister Alex Salmond has just returned from China, where he met members of the ruling Communist Party to discuss strengthening ties with Scotland. We were pleased that he brought up human rights concerns including the fact that China executes more people each year than the rest of the world combined.

Of course as well as capital punishment, China has a dismal record on suppressing the freedom of expression of its own people.

Internationally acclaimed artist Ai Wei Wei is one of the highest profile cases, and 2011 has already seen him imprisoned, then hit by a massive trumped-up tax bill which he was only able to pay thanks to the donations of supporters.

Other high profile dissidents remaining locked up following unfair trials include Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, whose wife Liu Xia has also been placed under illegal house arrest.

We've been campaigning on all these cases and others related to China, and the plus-side of the pandas’ arrival is that the Scottish media has given a fair bit of coverage to our concerns. Amnesty Scotland Director Shabnum Mustapha spoke about the 'panda effect' on BBC News.

So hopefully it all means more people realising the issue is not as black and white as two cutesy bears going on display in a zoo... And with that execrable attempt at a pun I will leave you!

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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