This week the city of Dublin (population 1.2 million) was officially twinned with the city of Beijing, China (population 19.4 million) in a ceremony that the Lord Mayor of Dublin Gerry Breen hopes it will give the struggling Irish capital city a boost.
The two cities admittedly have little in common on the surface but they are their respective countries’ seats of government. Reflecting on the ceremony, Breen told the Irish Times that twinning the two cities would benefit third-level education, tourism and business via foreign direct investment.
"This twinning means as much or as little as we make it," Breen said. "There’s a return visit by the mayor in the autumn, and now it’s the turn of the private sector, be it the third-level institutions, the tourism companies or the private companies, to take up the cudgels."
There are currently about 4,000 Chinese students in Dublin and the Chinese community is about 30,000 strong in the capital; however, the number of Dubliners living in Beijing is unclear.
Some human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, strongly opposed the decision to twin with Beijing because of China’s poor human rights record.
Dublin city councillor Mannix Flynn noted Dublin’s good relations with China, but he also expressed his concern over the fate of outspoken artist Ai Weiwei, who has been detained by China for 60 days without charge.