Loaning pandas to the UK is an attempt to distract from China's abysmal human rights record The two giant pandas that arrived in the UK last weekend are part of China's charm offensive on the West. Such efforts at ‘soft power’ aim to promote a very different image of China from the real one – which is of an unelected regime with one of the worst human rights records in the world. The Chinese Ambassador to the UK said that the "gift" would promote cultural, economic and social ties between the two countries and will promote China's peaceful role in the world.
Speak up for Tibet
"The British public loves animals, but these pandas, gorgeous as they are, must not distract us from taking the strongest possible line with China over human rights and speaking up for Tibet", says Stephanie Brigden, the Director of Free Tibet.
Censorship and torture
There is nothing cute or cuddly about China's occupation of Tibet. Anyone going to see these pandas should remember that the people who have loaned them run one of the worst regimes in the world with censorship, torture and arbitrary detention. Twelve Tibetans have set themselves on fire this year in protest at China's ongoing occupation. Human rights abuses, torture and disappearances are a regular feature of life in Tibet - where the unelected Chinese authorities maintain rule with an iron fist. "What we would like to see is respect for human rights first and maybe pandas later."