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Tibet demo in Bern precedes first Chinese state visit for 18 years

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Tibet demo in Bern precedes first Chinese state visit for 18 years
Xi Jinping. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP
12:27 CET+01:00
Tibetans in Switzerland and their supporters will hold a demonstration in Bern on Sunday ahead of the state visit of China's President, Xi Jinping.
The protest will take place on Waisenhausplatz from 10am to midday on Sunday morning just before the Chinese delegation arrives, after the Bern authorities reached a “compromise” with Tibetans who wished to demonstrate during his visit, reported news agencies.
 
Reto Nause, the city councillor responsible for security in Bern, told news agencies his decision took into account the need to respect freedom of expression and the importance of ensuring security during the visit.
 
The last time a Chinese president visited Switzerland was in 1999 when then-President Jiang Zemin was angered by Tibetans demonstrating in the capital. 
 
Eighteen years later, Xi Jinping's visit is seen as hugely important by business leaders in Switzerland.
 
He and his wife will be welcomed by Swiss President Doris Leuthard on Sunday evening with official speeches and a gala dinner, before talks between the Swiss and Chinese delegation begin on Monday. 
 
In a statement, the Swiss government said the Chinese visit was a “sign of the ever closer political and economic ties between Switzerland and China”.
 
Talks will focus on world trade and the global financial system, the environment and climate protection and the situation in Syria, plus bilateral issues including cooperation on economic, financial and scientific matters. 
 
The issue of human rights will also be discussed, said the government.
 
China has been Switzerland's most important trading partner in Asia since 2010, while in 2013 a free trade agreement reinforced relations between the two.
 
In April last year then-Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann was invited to China for a state visit where the countries' bilateral relations were packaged into a strategic partnership that the Swiss government says has “brought a new dimension and new dynamism to Sino-Swiss relations”.
 
Swiss business leader Daniel Kung told news agencies that Swiss products benefited from “a very good reputation” in China, which has improved further since the 2013 free trade agreement.
 
Xi Jinping's visit is timed for the World Economic Forum in Davos next week, which he will visit as well as spending time in Lausanne and Geneva.
 

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