Scotland’s first minister, has warned that a “ridiculous” UK decision to refuse visas to two Chinese teachers could jeopardise the recent improvement in relations with China.
The Home Office, which oversees UK immigration policy, recently refused to renew the visas of two Mandarin teachers from China who had already spent a year working in Scotland as part of a Confucius Institute programme.
Speaking in Hong Kong after a visit to Beijing, Alex Salmond said the UK should avoid antagonising China with a decision that was “indescribable foolishness”.
“I don’t think the UK now is in a position to cause needless offence in China,” said Mr Salmond.
Mr Salmond was leading a delegation of 30 Scottish companies to China to promote exports including salmon and whisky.
Senior Chinese officials had until recently refused to see their British counterparts because Prime Minister David Cameron met the Dalai Lama in May 2012. But the ice was broken last month when George Osborne, UK chancellor, and Boris Johnson, London mayor, visited China.
Mr Salmond’s comments on UK immigration policy come as Scottish voters prepare to vote next year on independence.
Ahead of a meeting with Hanban, the arm of the Chinese education ministry that runs the Confucius Institute, Mr Salmond asked Mr Cameron to reverse the visa decision.
“How do you suggest I explain this ridiculous policy? Kindly reverse it,” Mr Salmond wrote to Mr Cameron in a letter obtained by the Financial Times.
In an interview, Mr Salmond said the UK risked offending China. He said the Chinese government welcomed his stance, but said the question did not come up in a meeting with Yang Jiechi, the top Chinese official for foreign policy.
“Clearly if you start refusing visas to Confucius instructors, this is very offensive,” said Mr Salmond.” How would you feel if you were Hanban, and you were financing a programme that is welcomed and endorsed, and find that people are refused visas?”
Last week, Mr Salmond wrote to Theresa May, UK home secretary, to complain about the decision, which he has described as “sabotage”.
Arguing the question of visas could damage relations with Beijing, Mr Salmond said “some elements in the UK government believe that you engage in a relationship with China by having high value Chinese tourists spend lots of your money in your economy and they think you can separate this thing from issues like educational visas, [but] you can’t”.
Mr Salmond said Scotland would implement a more liberal immigration policy than the current UK government if it became independent and would create a “green card” system that would give foreign students educated in the country the automatic ability to work for a “sustained period of time”.
The UK last month relaxed visa rules for Chinese tourists, following complaints from retailers that they were losing business to shops in other European capitals.
In Beijing, Mr Salmond met executives from two big energy companies, Cnooc and Sinopec, to promote investment in Scotland.
He said Scottish exports to China had grown 88 per cent since his first visit five years ago. He added that salmon exports had risen from zero to ￡20m over the past two years.
Mr Salmond said Scottish whisky sales were also growing well in China, but refused to comment on the impact of an austerity campaign launched by Chinese president Xi Jinping this year.
“The market is growing but?.?.?.? [it] is not the same growth that it was last year. But I don’t think any Scottish distiller would say that they are feeling the pinch at this present moment.”
不久前，负责英国移民政策的英国内政部(Home Office)拒绝为两名来自中国的中文教师办理签证延期。二人在苏格兰孔子学院(Confucius Institute)授课，已经工作了一年。
直到最近，中国高级官员仍然拒绝会见英国高级官员，因为英国首相戴维?卡梅伦(David Cameron)在2012年5月接见了达赖喇嘛(Dalai Lama)。但上个月英国财相乔治?奥斯本(George Osborne)和伦敦市长鲍里斯?约翰逊(Boris Johnson)访华打破了坚冰。