A DELEGATION of Chinese government officials which may include the country’s leader has been invited to Edinburgh for the official opening of the new giant panda enclosure.
The Chinese consulate in Edinburgh today confirmed a proposal to host a “high-level delegation” from Beijing was being considered and could be decided by January next year. If given the green light, it has been claimed a Chinese state visit to Edinburgh could take place as early as February or March and may even include the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao or vice-premier Li Keqiang.
A spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh said: “Discussions about high-level mutual visits between China and the UK are [taking place] between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK.
“Some proposals include attending the official launch of the panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo but I cannot confirm the plan.”
He added: “The proposal has been made, and a decision [about whether to attend] may be made in January.”
A source, who wanted to remain anonymous, claimed that top-ranking leaders in the Chinese government could be among the visiting party.
“I’m told that we could expect a visit from either the premier or vice-premier of China to Edinburgh Zoo sometime in February or March,” they said.
“That would be a state visit to Edinburgh from the world’s fastest-growing economy so the challenge is how we harness all that potential and make it work”.
An Edinburgh Zoo spokesman declined to be drawn.
“All our efforts have been going into making sure the pandas settled into their new enclosure, which they have done and we have no definite plans for a formal event in the new year,” he said.