King Albert en Queen Paola visiting China
Fri 03/06/05 - Belgian King Albert II and Queen Paola are on their way to China for a 8-day visit. The Belgian royals are accompanied by more than 15 company managers, a delegation of scientists and heads of Belgian universities and high schools. The Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel De Gucht is also part of the Belgian delegation.
The state visit is to last 8 days, which is exceptionally long. It comes six months after the visit of Belgian Crown Prince Filip and Mathilde
Both countries are expected to sign economic deals and exchange programmes between universities.
The Chinese ambassador in Belgium, Zang Qiyue, still remembers that Belgium helped China in establishing a first joint venture in the early eighties.
"That's when the reforms in China began," Zang points out. "Belgium was also the first European country to offer governmental support."
Will Belgium be rewarded for its positive attitude?
Political prisoners? We don't have any"
Some hotter issues will be tackled as well, e.g. the human rights situation in China, the textile war between China and Europe and the tense relationship between China and Taipe.
China has no good reputation when it comes to human rights.
However, Chinese ambassador Zang claims in the daily De Standaard: "We have no political prisoners in China. And there is freedom of speech."
Will Albert have the honour of visiting Pit 1?
Albert and Paola will be visiting China's former capital, Xi'an, on Wednesday.
In the past, only the highest guests have been allowed to descend into Pit 1, with the Terra Cotta Army.
Bill Clinton was allowed to walk between the life-sized terra cotta figures of warriors, but Belgian former prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene had to stay outside.
King Albert is turning 71 on Monday. It is unsure whether he will walk up the Chinese Wall, since he is not so fit anymore. Albert had heart and back surgery over the past few years.
In 2002, PM Guy Verhofstadt lost his balance when walking up the Wall.
Belgian Crown Prince Filip and Mathilde visited China about six months ago, on a mercantile mission.