The doors of the town hall were opened to the Chinese community of Portugal, who attended a ceremony to mark the arrival of the Chinese New Year. 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, the fourth of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs.

The color red in Chinese culture is associated with luck and prosperity, and there was no shortage of red at the ceremony: all the guests wore a red scarf around their necks, and the decorative elements that were present in the building were also of this color – traditional Chinese lanterns gave a special touch that was captured in countless cell phone photos.

Porto Mayor Rui Moreira and the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Portugal Zhao Bentang, surrounded by a small crowd, watched from the ramp to the City Hall the Dragon Dance performance, featuring about 60 students from schools in Porto.

At the following reception in the Gentlemen’s Hall, there was a musical moment with Chinese instruments and traditional greetings. “Gathering here today for this celebration, we appreciate the historical relations between Portugal and China and emphasize the social, economic and cultural importance of the Chinese community in our city,” said the mayor of Porto.

Recalling the history that connects the two countries and which began with “the landing of the explorer Jorge Alvarez on Ling Ting Island in the Pearl River in 1513”, the mayor described this event as “the beginning of a fruitful cross-cultural relationship between Portugal and China”. “The first contact of our country, and later the West, with the ancient Middle Kingdom ensured an intensive exchange of knowledge, methods, experience and culture that enriched the history of mankind,” he added.

Since then, Sino-Portuguese relations have come a long way, Rui Moreira recalled: “Over the past decades, we have seen a significant growth of the Chinese community in our country. About 35,000 Chinese and Sino-Portuguese citizens live in the country. It is the tenth largest foreign community in the country. The second largest Chinese community in Portugal lives in the north. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 Chinese and Sino-Portuguese nationals live in the region, which speaks well of the weight of this community in the social and economic structure of the north.’

“In Porto, the Chinese community began to settle in the Battaglia district, starting in 1950,” the Porto mayor recalled, noting that “today, the Chinese community is fully integrated in our city. It is a community that participates in the social, economic and cultural dynamics of Porto, contributing to the common good and actively demonstrating its civic stance. This full integration owes a lot to the Chow family and in particular to Commander Chow Horng Tser, whom I would like to remember here today, one year after his death.’

“We hope that the consolidation of the Chinese presence in Porto will give our city an even more relevant and significant role in the framework of Sino-Portuguese cooperation,” said Rui Moreira, concluding with the words “I hope that the Year of the Rabbit, an animal that symbolizes patience and luck, will portend good relations between Portugal and China in the context of a geopolitical situation that is preferably less tense. Happy Chinese New Year! Xin nian kuay le!”

“Peace and Prosperity”

In a speech in Chinese translated into Portuguese, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Portugal, Zhao Bentang, emphasized the importance of the holiday: “This is the most important holiday for the Chinese, it marks the arrival of spring.”

“Bilateral relations have advanced significantly,” said the diplomat, referring to the cooperation between Portugal and China. “There is great potential for learning in a relationship that has always been friendly,” Zhao Benton added, giving as an example cooperation between the authorities of the two countries in the fight against the pandemic.

“May the Year of the Rabbit bring peace and prosperity to the people of both countries,” concluded the ambassador, after which an exchange of memories took place.

Earlier, on behalf of the Chinese community in Portugal, donations were made to five social solidarity institutes in the city: Associação das Escolas Jesus, Maria, José (Associação do Monte Pedral); Associação dos Albergues Noturnos do Porto; CASA – Centro de Apoio ao Sem-Abrigo; AADID – Associação dos Amigos das Deficiências Intellectuais e Desenvolvimentais; and the Soroptimist Internacional Clube do Porto Invicta.

“This is the first time that the Chinese New Year is celebrated in Porto City Council and we believe it will not be the last. The Chinese community is well integrated in Porto"- said the president of the Portuguese-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Yi Ping Chow, referring to Porto’s sisterhood with the cities and territories of China: Shanghai, Shenzhen and Macau.

The official session was attended by the Minister of Health and former mayor of Porto, Manuel Pizarro, as well as members of the executive branch, municipal ombudsman María José Azevedo, D. Duarte de Braganza and others.

The program of events organized by the Chinese community in Portugal to mark the coming of the New Year included a Year of the Rabbit dinner and show at the Municipal Theater of Campo Alegre.

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