Thursday, May 05, 2005

Panda Bear or Trojan Horse? 

The curious series of symbolic, detente-ish gestures between the government of the People's Republic of China and the opposition Nationalist Party (yes, that Nationalist Party) of Taiwan bears watching. The process has culminated in the recent offer of a gift of Pandas from the Mainland to the breakaway province. The result? As the BBC reports, common cause between pro-Taiwanese sovereignty hardliners and animal rights groups:
A Chinese offer to give Taiwan two giant pandas has caused as much controversy as excitement on the island. The offer was made as opposition leader Lien Chan of Taiwan's Nationalist party ended a historic visit to China.

But politicians from Taiwan's ruling party, as well as pro-independence groups, have criticised the gesture. They placed newspaper adverts calling the gift a Trojan Horse to trick people and undermine Taiwan's sovereignty. Others have pointed out the high cost of caring for the pandas, saying the money would be better spent on protecting endangered species of birds that migrate to Taiwan every year.

Animal welfare groups have called on the government to reject the political gift. They said Beijing's offer to send the pandas to Taiwan was an act of animal abuse on an endangered species. There are only about 1,000 pandas living in the wild, all of which are in China. While the controversy rages, rival zoos in Taiwan are competing with each other to house the cuddly pandas, which would undeniably attract huge crowds of visitors.

The government says it will decide whether or not to accept the offer based on international law and a professional, not political, assessment as to whether Taiwan would be able to properly care for the animals.

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