NICOLA Sturgeon has been briefed by Amnesty International on human rights issues in China ahead of a five-day visit there to boost trade.

The First Minister said she would bring up concerns with Chinese leaders in a “constructive and appropriate way” and also confirmed she would make a speech on children’s rights while in the country.

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She will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong between April 9 and 13, to conduct a series of high-level business and government meetings. There are also a number of events planned to boost cultural links between both countries.

It was announced in March that the first direct Scotland-China commercial air link will begin from Edinburgh Airport in June.

The focus of the official visit is trade, with Scottish exports to China rising by more than 40 per cent last year, driven in large part by a 47 per cent boost in sales of Scotch whisky. It amounts to £2.2bn of exports from Scotland to China in 2017 compared with £1.6 bn the year before.

When asked by STV news about broaching the topic of human rights while on the trade-dominated visit, the First Minister said: “We condemn human rights abuses wherever and whenever they occur. I’m a great believer that as a leader of a country wanting to do business and wanting to expand business, we’ve got to be very firm about the values and principles we hold dear and not compromise on that.”

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She added that this needed to be done in a “constructive and appropriate” manner so as not be “counter-productive”. The First Minister continued: “I met with Amnesty International last week as I did ahead of my last visit to China to be briefed on the issues that are of current concern to them.

“As I did on my last visit in China [in 2015], both in one-to-one but also on public platforms, I will raise the issue of human rights. The last visit, I chose to do that by focusing on women’s rights in a speech that was praised by Amnesty International. I’ll make a speech in this visit about children’s rights to a Unicef event.”

The First Minister’s visit to China comes just over a year after a £10 bn investment deal with the country collapsed. Chinese state-backed companies SinoFortone and China Railway No 3 Engineering Group pulled the plug on the deal in November 2016 following a row over previous allegations of corrupt practices surrounding the firms.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie pressed her on the visit and human rights issues last month.

Sturgeon responded: “The trip has been endorsed and welcomed by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Scotch Whisky Association and, no doubt, others. I will be in China promoting Scotland and the Scottish economy...I will speak up for human rights in China, as I did on my previous visit there.

“I bow to nobody in my determination to play my part in promoting human rights internationally. I hope that that is an issue that would unite everyone across this chamber. I will also speak up for Scottish companies, jobs, tourism and food and drink when I am in China, as I do when I am in any other part of the world, because my job is to promote Scotland, the Scottish economy and Scottish jobs.”