A panda given to Taiwan by China in 2008 died on Saturday from a long illness, the Taipei Zoo said.
Tuan Tuan was offered to Taiwan along with companion Yuan Yuan as goodwill gesture from China, during the period of relative rapprochement between the two countries. Fourteen years later, amid mounting tensions between China and Taiwan, a giant panda died at the zoo, who had been suffering from convulsions since August, according to the BBC.
Chinese veterinarians were called to analyze Tuan Tuan’s health, and examinations showed that Panda had ‘irreversible’ brain damagewhich greatly affected the quality of life of the animal.
According to the British newspaper The Guardian, many have taken to social media to mourn and pay their respects to the panda. One of these people was Ko Wen-je, Governor of Taipeiwho took to Instagram to thank Tuan Tuan for “bringing happiness to the people of Taiwan and making the Taipei Zoo even more beautiful.”
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In 2008, when China offered Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, the gesture was seen as a positive step towards relations with Taiwan, a territory Chinese do not recognize independence🇧🇷 In October, at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping declared that China would “never give up the use of force” to reunify Taiwan, a statement that put the world on alert.
China ‘never renounces the use of force’ to reunify Taiwan
China usually uses pandas as a diplomatic tool to improve relations with other countries, however pandas are expected to be brought back in a few years to become part of China’s breeding program to protect the species. Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan are an exception as they belong to Taiwan in perpetuity, as do their two offspring, Yuan Zaibap, born in 2013, and Yuan Bao, born in 2020.
Ironically, according to the BBC, together the names Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan means “gathering” or “unity”🇧🇷