China opens a window on Sunderland

A permanent display dedicated to the heritage and culture of Sunderland has opened in one of China's largest cities.

The room was opened yesterday during a visit by a city delegation to Harbin, China's 10th largest city.

The delegation of civic and business leaders is there to sign a Friendship Agreement tomorrow afternoon and will be joined by Sunderland headteachers later that day.

Yesterday, most of the party visited the Harbin International Sister Cities Museum where the "Sunderland room" was opened by Sunderland City Council Chief Executive Dave Smith and Zhang Tian Bo, Director General of Harbin's Foreign and Overseas Affairs Office.

Harbin, a city of almost 10million, has friendship agreements with 26 cities and towns throughout the world including Minneapolis in the U.S., Aarhuus in Denmark and Edmonton in Canada.

The Sunderland room has photographs of the city, small sculptures of miners to commemorate the city's mining heritage, a glass picture of the Wearmouth bridges commissioned from Sunderland glass artists Julo for the city council, and a large display of SAFC memorabilia.

In opening the display, Mr Zhang said he hoped the room would provide a window through which thousands of Chinese and foreign visitors to the museum could see and understand Sunderland.

Mr Smith responded by saying it was a privilege for the city to be so prominently represented in the museum.

After the visit to the museum, a banquet was held for the Sunderland delegation, hosted by Harbin's Deputy Mayor Wang Li.

Mrs Wang formally welcomed the Wearside party and said she and the city looked forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Sunderland.