Towns and cities across Scotland are being manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party to “expand the influence of its dictatorship,” a group of exiled Hong Kongers have claimed.

The Global De-twinning campaign is urging cities across the world to scrap any twinning arrangements they hold with China.

Currently, Glasgow is twinned with Dalian, Edinburgh has agreements with Shenzhen, and Xi'an, and Perth is connected to Haikou.

Meanwhile, Angus has a decades-long relationship with Yantai.

Fife twinned with Gansu in 1989, though the relationship is no longer active.

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Global De-twinning claims the arrangement is “a manipulative tool for the Chinese Communist Party.”

Speaking to The Herald on Sunday, a spokesperson said: "We are aware of a number of exchange programs through twinning agreements. Most exchanges were related to education and youth programs.

“These exchanges will help amplify Beijing’s propaganda and assist the Beijing regime in spreading the ‘legitimacy’ of its human rights violations.

“According to the twinning agreement between Glasgow and Dalian, it is related to table tennis and badminton training of Glasgow School of Sports.

“On the other hand, the twinning agreement between Edinburgh and Shenzhen is related to University students exchange.”

The Hongkongers added: “These agreements are demonstrating the cities of Scotland have ignored the human rights records of China, forced labour and limited freedom of expression.

“The twinning agreements are facilitating espionage or covert operations of the China Communist Party in Scotland

“The agreements would address potential threats to new arrival Hong Kongers, who have the British National (Overseas) passport and fleeing from Hong Kong which has already been a place of limitation of freedoms by Beijing."

Earlier this year, a small group of councillors attempted to detwin Perth and Haikou.

However, their bid was overwhelmingly defeated, with just 10 voting in favour of Labour’s councillor Alasdair Bailey’s motion, while 23 voted against.

Dave Valentine, a former head of development at Angus Council, who was instrumental in establishing the authority’s relationship with Yantai, said there were “enormous” benefits for Scots from the links.

The businessman who now runs Valentine International Business Connections, which specialises in establishing commercial ventures in China, told the Herald on Sunday: “You build relationships with people. The governments facilitate the relationship but in 25 years I've never encountered a problem in terms of indoctrination or any attempt whatsoever to force ideology on anyone.”

He added: “This particular group is really trying to dismember all of the links that have been established over a long period of time, and I can't help thinking it's more about their ideology, rather, rather than the ill effects of China's ideology, which I've never experienced to be a problem.”

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Mr Valentine said it would be more important in the future that Scotland and China “build links, not dismantle them.”

“We must engage, we must talk. There must be communication” he added.

The call comes as the UK’s and Scotland’s relationship with China comes under renewed scrutiny.

There are concerns over threats to civil liberties in Hong Kong, and the threat of espionage and influence operations by China in the UK.

Last year, the Loon Fung on Sauchiehall Street was named in a report about a global network of overseas units, accused of conducting “persuasion operations” to coerce dissidents to return home.

Spanish-based NGO, Safeguard Defenders, identified 54 of these "police service centres" across five continents and 21 countries.

The restaurant denied any wrongdoing, with the manager telling press: “There are no secret police here.”

Meanwhile, there are increasing international fears over Beijing’s ambition for the “reunification” of Taiwan.

President Xi has repeatedly said he hopes for a peaceful takeover, but has not ruled out the use of force.

There has also been criticism over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims, hundreds of thousands of whom have been detained in camps.

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Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton repeated his call for the Scottish Government to "conduct immediate strategic audits of the reach of China’s interests and influence in Scotland.”

He added: "We trust our local representatives to manage the relationships their councils have with sister cities, and a key part of that is raising human rights concerns where they arise. "

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “Glasgow has been twinned with Dalian since 1987 and has developed mutually beneficial projects and partnerships related to cultural, sporting, educational and trading links.

"We have no plans to formally cease our twinning agreement. However, we are not currently pursuing new projects.”  

Perth and Kinross council pointed The Herald on Sunday to February's debate on detwinning.

Edinburgh and Angus councils did not comment.