UK rolls out red carpet to Chinese president Xi Jinping


Chinese president Xi Jinping arrives in the UK today as Britain rolls out the red carpet for the high-profile state visit.

Mr Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan will stay as guests of the Queen at Buckingham Palace, attend a glittering state banquet and dine with Prime Minister David Cameron at Chequers during their official four-day trip.

The Government is pulling out all the stops to court the leader of the world's second-largest economy, with a packed schedule for Mr Xi including an away day to Manchester with Mr Cameron.

The Duke of Cambridge, who has worked at forging a relationship with China, is recording a speech on the illegal wildlife trade for Chinese television on the eve of the official trip, which begins on Tuesday.

William will be filmed in front of a studio-style audience of students and guests at the Maughan Library at King's College London ahead of his speech being aired on the Chinese state TV channel CCTV1.

He raised the issue with Mr Xi when they met in Beijing earlier this year and his broadcast will form part of a series of programmes called Let's Talk.

The Duke will also meet Sir David Attenborough, basketball player Yao Ming and TV presenter Bear Grylls at the university. 

Large red flags of the People's Republic of China are already lining The Mall in central London, along with the Union flag, in preparation for the pomp and ceremony of the official welcome on Horse Guards Parade and the state carriage procession back to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

The Communist leader and Ms Peng will arrive privately at London's Heathrow Airport, greeted on behalf of the Queen by Viscount Hood.

Mr Cameron, in an interview with CCTV1, said Mr Xi's visit was a ''very important moment'' and hailed a ''golden era'' in ties between the countries, while Mr Xi praised Britain's "visionary and strategic choice" to become the western country most open to China, in a rare written interview with Reuters.

Officials are determined to ensure the trip - the first state visit to the UK by a Chinese president in a decade - goes well. UK-China relations were briefly thrust into the deep-freeze in 2012 after Mr Cameron's meeting with the Dalai Lama prompted outrage in Beijing.

Chancellor George Osborne has just returned from a charm offensive in China designed to open up new markets for British companies and secure billions of pounds of investment in projects.

Protesters will shine a spotlight on China's poor human rights record, with the Free Tibet group, those supporting persecuted Uighur Muslims and Amnesty UK planning demonstrations.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also expected to raise concerns over human rights abuses when he calls on the president at the Palace on Tuesday.

David Mepham, the UK director of Human Rights Watch, and Labour MP Fabian Hamilton will be among those speaking at a "stateless lunch" at the Palace of Westminster to honour Tibetan, Uighur and Chinese human rights defenders who have been imprisoned and intimidated by the Chinese government.

The Prince of Wales, who is a supporter of the Dalai Lama and who has had a difficult relationship with China's leadership in the past, will miss the state banquet on Tuesday evening.

But Charles will greet Mr Xi and his wife at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel earlier in the day and escort them to Horse Guards Parade, have lunch with them at the Palace and take tea with them at Clarence House.

A royal source stressed he was heavily involved in the visit and was using the opportunity to have one-to-one talks with Mr Xi rather than meeting him with a cast of thousands.

The Prince once described China's previous leaders as ''appalling old waxworks'' in extracts from his journal after he visited Hong Kong in 1997 for the handover ceremony and in 1999 he boycotted the return banquet during a Chinese state visit.

William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expected to be at the banquet.

It is the first time either of them has attended one at the Palace - a sign of the level of importance being placed on the state visit. Mr Corbyn will also be among the guests - possibly in white tie and tails.

The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said he did not believe Mr Corbyn would raise the issue of human rights at the sit-down dinner. 

''You think the Labour Party will raise this issue at a state banquet? I don't think so. I think, you know, the president is here for co-operation, for partnership. He is not here for a debate about human rights," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. 

William will call on the president at the Palace ahead of the evening engagement and the Duke and the Duchess will join Mr Xi at a UK Creative Industries event in London on Wednesday after which the president will hold talks with Mr Cameron at Downing Street.