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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Communications between FM and Chinese Government since 2016: FOI release

Published: 14 Aug 2017

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/17/01605
Date received: 11 July 2017
Date responded: 8 August 2017

Information requested

1) A breakdown of all communications between the First Minister and the Chinese Government since June 2016.

2) All correspondence between the First Minister and the Chinese Government since June 2016.

3) All minutes and notes taken of telephone communications between the First Minister and the Chinese Government since June 2016.

Response

Request 1

Below is a breakdown of the information you requested. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under section 32(1)(a)(i) (international relations) of FOISA applies to that information. The reason why this exemption is applied is explained in Annex A.

  • Letter to Party Secretary of Guangdong, Mr Hu Chunhua, dated 28 June 2017 [REDACTED]

  • Letter to Chinese Consul General, Mr Pan Xinchun, dated 10 January 2017

  • Invite from Chinese Consul General, Mr Pan Xinchun, dated 28 December 2016

  • Letter from Chinese Consul General, Mr Pan Xinchun, dated 9 December 2016

  • Letter from Vice President of the Chinese Friendship Association, Mr Song Jingwu, dated 12 October 2016

  • Meeting with Vice President of the Chinese Friendship Association, Mr Song Jingwu, 21 September 2016 at the Scottish Parliament

  • Letter to Chinese Consul General, Mr Pan Xinchun, dated 10 September 2016

  • Letter from Chinese Consul General, Mr Pan Xinchun, dated 6 September 2016

  • Letter from Chinese Consul General, Mr Pan Xinchun, dated 5 September 2016

  • Letter from Chinese Consul General, Mr Pan Xinchun, dated 22 June 2016

  • Letter to Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Mr Liu Xiaoming, dated 12 June 2016

  • Letter to Chinese Consul General, Mr Pan Xinchun, dated 7 June 2016

Request 2

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested, at Annex B. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under section 32(1)(a)(i) (international relations) and 38(1)(b) (personal data of a third party) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in Annex A.

Request 3

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. We do not have the information because there have been no telephone communications between the First Minister and the Chinese Government since June 2016. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

An exemption under section 32(1)(a)(i) of FOISA (international relations) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the United Kingdom and China. The effective conduct of international relations depends upon maintaining trust and confidence between the UK Government and China. If the Scottish Government does not respect this confidence, the UK Government's relations with China and its ability to protect and promote UK interest will be substantially prejudiced; and China and other countries are likely to be more reluctant to share sensitive information, with Scotland or other parts of the United Kingdom in future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications with the UK.

This exemption is subject to the "public interest test." Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of these cases, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in ensuring that the UK Government is able to maintain good relations with China in order to protect and promote UK interests abroad.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. This exemption is not subject to the 'public interest test', so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.  

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
14 Aug 2017
Communications between FM and Chinese Government since 2016: FOI release