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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 October 2007, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Anger over China consulate visit
Provost Margaret Brisley
Margaret Brisley is due to attend a meeting with the Chinese Consul
Stirling Provost Margaret Brisley has been criticised over a planned visit to the Chinese Consulate.

Conservative councillor Neil Benny described the engagement as "abhorrent" to the people of Stirling.

In an open letter, Mr Benny attacked China's human rights record and the provost's decision to attend the meeting in Edinburgh on 8 October.

Ms Brisley said the visit was part of her role to represent Stirling's Chinese community.

Mr Benny insisted his criticism of Ms Brisley, who is a Labour member, was not a party issue and claimed it was a matter of conscience.

He said: "I truly believe that if the provost attends this event we are sending a terrible signal about what Stirling Council stands for and is willing to accept.

"I am not naive enough to think that this message will send a signal to the Chinese government, but it will help to change people's views about what is acceptable and what is not in this day and age."

'Closer relations'

The Stirling West councillor acknowledged that any move to pull out of the visit would be "awkward" for the provost.

In response, Ms Brisley said she was "disappointed" that Mr Benny saw the visit as a means of "condoning human rights violations rather than as an opportunity to foster closer relations for the mutual benefit of citizens".

She said: "As you may not be aware, Chinese students are being actively encouraged to study in Scotland and Stirling University has been the number one choice of destination for thousands of international students, many from China.

"I am sure that the proposed civic engagement will help facilitate discussion of areas of mutual interest and concern to the vice-consul and members of the Chinese community who have chosen to study, work or live here in Stirling."

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