AN SNP MP has criticised a visit to China undertaken by External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson, stressing it was "out of step with international opinion".

Robertson visited several different Chinese cities this week focusing on promoting business and tourism, but a press release on it gave no mention of human rights or security issues related to the country.

Stewart McDonald, who previously sat alongside Robertson on the SNP benches at Westminster, said he was "dismayed" by the visit and warned that the "character and tone" was "out of step with international opinion".

He told BBC Scotland News that while engagement is important, China's "catastrophic" human rights record must be raised.

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Claiming that the country represents Scotland's biggest security threat, he said: "China is no ordinary trading partner. It has violently cracked down on democracy and the rule of law in Hong Kong, is carrying out a genocide against Uighur Muslims, is increasingly threatening the people of Taiwan."

The Independent Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) – a group of legislators that has concerns about human rights and includes McDonald along with SNP MPs Alyn Smith and Chris Law – questioned the Scottish Government's "uncritical approach" towards Beijing.

Robertson was scheduled to meet representatives of the Beijing government, as well as business leaders and alumni from Scottish universities.

He added that he hoped to "meet key stakeholders on energy and green transition" and would be signing a memorandum of understanding on culture and tourism.

A quarter of international students in Scottish higher education are from China, and key exports to the country include whisky and salmon, but serious questions surround its human rights record.

Last year, the UN accused China of "serious human rights violations" in a report into allegations of abuse in Xinjiang province, where about 12 million Muslim Uyghurs live. China denies all allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

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This week the campaign group Human Rights Watch also alleged there was a "systematic effort" to curb the practice of Islam in the country.

Alicia Kearns, who chairs Westminster's foreign affairs committee, questioned the trip's focus on encouraging more Chinese students to study in Scotland.

She said: "Chinese students in the UK live in constant fear of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) surveillance and intimidation. I have long called for greater protections for Chinese students and their research against coercion from Beijing.

"While dialogue with China is important I urge the Scottish External Affairs Minister to be clear-eyed on the reality of Chinese influence in Scottish education and any purported goodwill from Beijing."