Belgian PM accused of favoritism in giant panda zoo choice

Feb. 21, 2014 at 4:28 PM   |   Comments

MONS, Belgium, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- An opposition politician is accusing Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo of favoritism for choosing a French-speaking zoo as the home for two giant pandas.

Giant pandas Xing Hui, whose name means "Twinking Star," and Hao Hao, whose name means "Cute," are scheduled to travel from China Sunday to begin their 15-year stay at the Pairi Daiza animal park near Mons, where Di Rupo also serves as mayor, Britain's the Guardian newspaper reported Friday.

Zuhal Demir, a member of Parliament with the Flemish separatist N-VA party, said the prime minister made a "political choice" in picking the French-speaking zoo over the Antwerp Zoo, the country's oldest zoo and the former home of another pair of pandas.

"He was not acting as prime minister of all Belgians," Demir said.

A spokesman for the Antwerp Zoo said officials "are rather surprised that the Prime Minister did not think of us."

Pairi Daiza founder and owner Eric Domb said the zoo, which is most-visited in the country, was chosen on its merits.

"The pandas are Chinese, not Walloon or Flemish," he said.

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