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Beijing Unveils Two Giant Pandas for Taiwan
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The Chinese mainland unveiled Friday the two giant pandas for Taiwan compatriots as goodwill gifts.

The panda couple, both one year old, were selected from 23 candidates raised in the Wolong China Giant Panda Research Center in southwestern Sichuan Province, said Cao Qingyao, spokesman of the State Forestry Administration at a press conference in Beijing.

No. 19, first son of the US-returned star panda "Hua Mei," is one year and four months old, weighing 46 kg and his love No. 16 is one month older than him, weighing 48 kg, said Cao, adding the final selection was based on a three-month "trial marriages" which test whether the couple could fit each other.

"The panda experts were very, very cautious during the selection. So I can say No. 19 and No. 16 are the best choice," said the spokesman.

"We hope the couple can meet the Taiwan compatriots as soon as possible and the Taiwan authorities can follow the wishes of the people on the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, providing active cooperation on this issue," said Dai Xiaofeng, head of the exchange bureau of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

"We also hope the Taiwan authorities can authorize an organization which will be responsible for discussing affairs about the Taiwan-bound giant panda couple with the wildlife protection departments on the Chinese mainland," said Cao.

In addition, the Chinese mainland began to solicit pet names for the two giant pandas that have been singled out among 23 peers as gifts to the Taiwan compatriots.

An ideal name will consist of two Chinese characters and fully embodies the aspiration of Chinese compatriots across the Taiwan Straits, said Cao.

Chinese compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, overseas Chinese and all friendly personages are welcome to mull names for the two cuddly bears, he said.

The China Wildlife Conservation Association will be responsible for the name mulling project, which will last from now until 8:00 PM on January 20.

"We'll shortlist 10 pairs of names which will be publicized at the Spring Festival gala on the Chinese Central Television on January 28, the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year. The couple will be given the two names that receive most votes from TV viewers," said Cao.

Chen Yunlin, director of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, announced last May that the mainland compatriots would present a pair of giant pandas to Taiwan compatriots as a symbol of peace, unity and friendship.

The giant panda is one of the world's most endangered species and is found only in China. It is estimated that 1,590 giant pandas live wild in China and those in captivity totaled 183 in the Chinese mainland by the end of 2005.

(Xinhua News Agency January 6, 2006)

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