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HK to welcome new giant pandas as gift

Central government gives another pair of bears to mark region's 27th anniversary

By Wang Zhan and Gang Wen | China Daily | Updated: 2024-07-02 08:57

Hong Kong is set to welcome a new pair of giant pandas presented as a gift by the central government, the special administrative region's chief executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, announced on Monday at a reception to celebrate the 27th anniversary of its establishment.

They are expected to arrive in Hong Kong in a few months and settle at Ocean Park, joining Ying Ying and Le Le, two previous gifts from the central government.

Lee said the move fully demonstrates the nation's care and support for Hong Kong. He added that this year also marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, which makes the gift even more special.

He spoke about how two pairs of giant pandas previously given to Hong Kong by the central government had woven their way into the collective memory of generations of Hong Kong people, who adored them.

The Hong Kong government has been liaising with related mainland authorities to discuss arrangements for the arrival of the giant pandas.

In 2022, Hong Kong went into mourning when the world's oldest male panda in captivity died at Ocean Park zoo. Born in the wild in Sichuan province, An An, together with its female mate Jia Jia, was given to Hong Kong by the central government in 1999. An An was euthanized at the age of 35 — the equivalent of a human living till 105.

The pandas set multiple Guinness World Records in 2015 — Jia Jia becoming the oldest giant panda under human care, and An An the oldest male giant panda under human care.

Ocean Park Chairman Paulo Pong Kin-yee said giant pandas have always been the park's most popular animal ambassadors. They have brought countless precious memories to over 55 million local and global visitors since 1999. Pong said the addition of new giant pandas will enrich Hong Kong's tourism resources and enhance Ocean Park's conservation and education efforts.

Hong Kong lawmaker Tan Yueheng said that giant pandas are beloved national treasures with a large global fan base. He said he believes the arrival of the new giant pandas will ignite a tourism boom and inject vitality into the local tourism industry.

Tan said that giant pandas have become valuable intellectual property in recent years.

Hua Hua, from Chengdu, has become a name card of the tourism industry in Sichuan's provincial capital, and driven related industries such as cultural and creative products and themed hotels. Similarly, Fu Bao in South Korea has garnered hundreds of millions of views online.

Hong Kong should seize every opportunity to capitalize on the new giant pandas' arrival in the city, Tan said.

Brandon Lam contributed to this story.

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