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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The Little Mermaid, the statue of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale character and one of Denmark's top tourist attractions, will be boxed up and sent to China to charm visitors at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo.
"There will be a vast amount of people traveling to Shanghai and if there is one person who is big in China, it is Hans Christian Andersen," Deputy Prime Minister Lene Espersen told Reuters on Thursday.
Espersen, who is also business minister, said some 70 million people are expected to attend the World Exhibition in China next year, and at least 3 million of them are expected to visit the Danish pavilion.
When the plan to send the statue to China emerged last year it created a heated debate in Denmark. Some politicians have said six months was too long for one of Copenhagen's landmarks to be away from the Scandinavian country.
But a city spokesman said on Thursday that there was now a majority in favor of the trip on the Copenhagen City Council. A final vote will take place on February 19.
Espersen, attending a Copenhagen fashion week show, said the Danish pavilion, called Welfairytales, will try to portray Denmark as an environmentally friendly country by combining the old with the new -- fairytales and welfare.
The sculpture, which sits on a granite block in Copenhagen's port, was created in 1913 by Edvard Eriksen. Although the little mermaid led a quiet life well into the 1950s, she has since received ignominious treatment on a number of occasions, and was even decapitated by a group of artists in 1964.
She was blown off her rock in 2003 and dressed in a Muslim headscarf two years ago in apparent protest at the prospect of Turkish European Union membership.
The Hans Christian Andersen fairytale that bears her name was first published in 1837 and has since been turned into a Walt Disney cartoon. It tells the story of a young mermaid who is willing to give up everything for the love of a prince.
editing by Tim Pearce