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Belgian PM welcomes Chinese pandas

11:31 24/02/2014

The two pandas gifted by the Chinese government to Belgium arrived at Brussels Airport in Zaventem yesterday to a welcome worthy of heads of state. More than 120 representatives of the international press were on hand, with prime minister Elio Di Rupo and the Chinese embassy to Belgium, to welcome the two pandas, Hao Hao and Xing Hui. Members of the public had been warned in advance that they would have no access to the arrival of the pandas.

According to Di Rupo, Chinese president Xi Jinping has promised he will visit the pandas in Belgium. “It’s a very special day,” Di Rupo told VTM News, visibly moved. “This is something unbelievable for us. This is a sort of strengthening of the bond between our two countries.”

Regardless of the effect of the pandas’ arrival on international relations, the animals are not a gift. They will stay in Belgium for 15 years at the animal park Pairi Daiza in Wallonia, with a federal government injection of €10 million. In return, the number of visitors to the park is expected to rise to meet the cost and more. The pandas’ first visitors were children from the primary school in Tiegem, West Flanders, who were invited to Pairi Daiza to welcome the pandas to their new home.

Photo by Zhou Lei/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Written by Alan Hope