Melbourne, May 8 : Japanese officials have said that the Tokyo's zoo has been flooded with calls to refuse a pair of pandas offered by Chinese President Hu Jintao, fearing that the money from the lease would fund Beijing's clampdown in Tibet.
"We have received many calls from ordinary citizens who sometimes hysterically condemn" the proposal, said Hidemasa Hori, an Ueno Zoo official.
"There are others who call and say that Japan doesn't need to bow its head and pay money just to rent the pandas," he added.
Many callers cited China's crackdown on protests in Tibet, saying that the issue "is not really the rental fee per se, but more that Japan is supplying Beijing with money".
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) earlier this week appealed to Japan not to accept the pandas, saying they would be miserable in confinement, The Australian reported.
"Pandas are an endangered species, not a commodity to be traded for human amusement," the US-based group said in a letter.
President Hu on a visit to Japan offered to lease a male and a female panda to replace one of the best-loved animals at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, Ling Ling, who died last week.
Tokyo metropolitan official Kazuomi Nishikiori said that the fee is undecided, the going rate is one million dollar a year for a Japanese zoo to rent a panda.
Chinese and Japanese officials will hold talks next week about the proposed deal for Ueno Zoo, which is run by Tokyo's local government, he said.
Tokyo's Governor Shintaro Ishihara, an outspoken critic of China, has called on the zoo to study carefully whether bringing pandas would make financial sense by drawing more visitors.
"They are not divine. I don't care if they're there (at the zoo) or not," Ishihara said before Hu's visit.