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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Chinese band sparks Tattoo protest
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The tattoo is in its 53rd year
Demonstrators are planning to picket the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in protest at a performance by the People's Liberation Army of China.

Free Tibet campaigners and members of the Falun Gong religious movement said the military arm of China's repressive regime had no place in Scotland.

However, Tattoo organisers said they were "100% right" to invite the band.

Brigadier Melville Jameson described the soldiers as "charming" people who "carry musical degrees not guns".

The inclusion of the People's Liberation Army of China on the bill for this year's Tattoo has sparked fury.

It is still a force of occupation in Tibet and still a force of repression in China
Anne Callaghan
Free Tibet Campaign
Opponents have hit out at China's human rights record.

The Free Tibet Campaign has staged several protests in Edinburgh in recent weeks and has threatened to protest at the event.

Campaigner Anne Callaghan said: "Events such as the prestigious Tattoo provide another platform to present a different view of the PLA - as something almost fluffy.

"Whereas it is still a force of occupation in Tibet and still a force of repression in China."

Ms Callaghan accused the Tattoo of putting the interests of tourism above the interests of preventing further human rights abuses.

She added: "The problem with the hand of friendship is the Chinese government need to hear some tough words on human rights. It does not need events like this which just bolster the regime and its control.

Programme launch

"The regime thinks no-one is paying attention to what is happening in China and Tibet but real friends tell each other the bad news as well as the good."

However, Brigadier Jameson, the chief executive and producer of the Tattoo, defended the decision at the launch of the full programme for the Edinburgh Castle event.

He said: "Having thought about it for all this time, I am convinced 100% that inviting the Chinese was the right thing to do.

Brigadier Jameson
We are expecting some demonstrations from people such as the Free Tibet movement. So we will take all necessary precautions in view of that.
Brigadier Jameson
"I believe that engaging with the Chinese is hopefully going to do something towards bringing democracy and Western ways sooner to China."

Brigadier Jameson said the Tattoo could be viewed by around 500 million people in China and add to cultural understanding and respect between the two nations.

Although the Tattoo is expecting protests, the chief executive said he was confident "common sense" would prevail.

He added: "We are expecting some demonstrations from people such as the Free Tibet movement. So we will take all necessary precautions in view of that.

"We certainly do not expect and cannot tolerate anything within the arena. I hope common sense will prevail on that front."

Exotic acts

A Tattoo spokesman said this year's security would, as usual, be foremost in arrangements and take into account the event's international profile and the world situation.

As well as the performance by the Chinese army, organisers promised a mixture of Scottish and exotic acts with more than 1,000 performers from around the globe set to march on to the ramparts from 6 to 28 August.

The 55th annual event will feature the largest single gathering of military musicians in the UK and acts from as far afield as South Africa, New Zealand and the Far East.

More than 210,000 tickets for the 24 performances sold out in record time. The last were snapped up in June, seven weeks ahead of the opening night.

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