An exercise in persuasive writing led to a group of students from Launceston’s Scotch Oakburn College Junior School meeting one of the most powerful men in the world, the President of China.
In fact, President Xi Jinping credited the students’ letters with convincing him to visit Tasmania last month, following the G20 Summit in Brisbane.
It began in May with the students in Katie Marson’s Year 5 class writing letters to President Xi and his wife, Madam Peng Liyuan, in both English and Mandarin.
Amazingly the letters made it to the presidential couple. This prompted a visit to the school from the Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu, and the Consul General to Melbourne, Yumin Song, to hand-deliver President Xi’s letter of reply to the students last month.
In that letter, the president wrote: “Children are the future and hope of a country or a nation. They are also the hope of state-to-state relations. Your letters have given us great confidence in future China-Australia relations. We hope that you will all become successors to the cause of China-Australia friendship.”
On 18 November, the class travelled to Hobart to meet the couple at Government House.
The day beforehand – during a speech to the Federal Parliament – President Xi had made special mention of the students’ letter as being a catalyst for the Tasmanian trip.
Two pupils, Lucy Chesterman and Theo Wolfhagen, both 11, assisted in a tree planting ceremony in the grounds of Government House to mark the president’s visit.
Lucy said afterwards: “I loved the tree planting but I was very nervous helping the president when I watered the magnolia tree.’’
Chloe Edwards was thrilled that President Xi invited the students to visit China and Grace Darcey thought that Madam Peng was beautiful.
“She gave me a kiss on the cheek and she smelled lovely too,” Grace said.
Bethany Hirst recalled: “My favourite thing after meeting the President and his wife were the gorgeous baby Tassie devils. I got to hold one.”