Airlines offer to fly Chinese pandas to Taiwan

September 3rd, 2008 - 11:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Taipei, Sep 3 (DPA) Four airlines have offered to fly a pair of giant pandas free of charge from China to Taiwan, the Taipei Zoo said Wednesday.Yeh Chieh-sheng, director of the Taipei Zoo, said two Taiwan carriers - the China Airlines and EVA Air - as well as the China Southern Airlines and Federal Express, have offered to fly the two panda bears - Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan - from Chengdu to Taipei.

The Taipei Zoo will use one of the four carriers to fly the pandas to Taipei in November, and put them on display in January 2009, Yeh told reporters.

Yeh said he expects the number of visitors to the Taipei Zoo to double because of the arrival of the two pandas.

Chinese President Hu Jintao offered a pair of giant pandas to Taiwan in 2005 as gifts to the Taiwan people, but the government of former president Chen Shui-bian blocked their arrival, saying the two animals were China’s propaganda tools.

After Ma Ying-jeou from the China-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party took office May 20, Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture quickly approved the import of the pandas, even though the pair’s names are Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, which have strong political connotations.

In Chinese, the two characters Tuan Yuan mean Unification. China sees Taiwan as its breakaway province and has been wooing Taiwan to return to the bosom of the motherland.

The current Taiwan government, asserting Taiwan’s sovereignty while seeking to improve ties with China, has made no attempt to change the names of the two panda bears.

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