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Newsline: China’s panda diplomacy hits snag in Finland

A cash-strapped Finnish zoo said it was preparing to return two giant pandas on loan from China as it could no longer afford their upkeep. The pandas, named Lumi and Pyry, were brought to Finland in January 2018, nine months after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Nordic country and signed a joint agreement on protecting the animals. Ahtari Zoo, a private company which had hoped the pandas would bring visitors to the central Finland location, said it had instead accumulated mounting debts as the pandemic curbed travel. Finland’s government, which gave one-off support of 200,000 euros in 2021, declined an application for a 5 million euro ($5.4 million) grant. The foreign ministry said it had established a working group to seek a solution, but added there was no certainty one would be found. “If the pandas were returned, we believe that China would understand it would be a business decision of a private company in a difficult financial situation,” a ministry spokesperson said. “We do not believe that this would have wider effects on the relations between Finland and China.” (https://neuters.de/world/europe/cash-strapped-finnish-zoo-may-have-return-giant-pandas-china-2023-01-27/) A final decision on whether to return the pandas will be made on Feb. 28, the zoo said. China’s modern panda diplomacy dates back to at least 1972 when it donated two giant pandas to the United States.

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