Security tight ahead of first state visit to UK by Chinese president in a decade


The first state visit to the UK by a Chinese president in a decade takes place next week when Xi Jinping stays as the Queen's guest at Buckingham Palace.

Mr Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan will spend three days in London where the Chinese leader will hold talks with Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street before joining him for dinner at Chequers.

A fourth and final day will be spent carrying out engagements in Manchester.

Protesters from the Free Tibet group, as well as those supporting persecuted Uighur Muslims, are planning demonstrations to coincide with the high-profile stay, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to raise concerns over human rights abuses when he calls on the president at the palace.

The last Chinese state visit to the UK was in 2005 when hundreds of campaigners took to the streets in protest at China's poor human rights record.

Security will be tight during Mr Xi's visit as the Chinese leader and members of the Royal Family carry out their engagements.

Last month, the head of MI5 warned that the level of terrorist plotting against Britain was at its highest for nearly four decades.

Mr Xi arrives on Monday, but the state visit officially begins on Tuesday when he receives a ceremonial welcome in central London.

He will be greeted at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and escorted to Horse Guards Parade before taking a state carriage procession back to Buckingham Palace for lunch.

Charles will miss the state banquet hosted by the Queen in the evening, but will hold one-to-one talks with Mr Xi when he invites him to tea at Clarence House in the afternoon.

The Prince, who is a supporter of the Dalai Lama, has had a difficult relationship with China's leadership in the past, but a royal source stressed that he was heavily involved in this visit and using the opportunity to have a personal dialogue with Mr Xi rather than meeting him with a cast of thousands.

Charles's thoughts on China's previous leaders are well known after he described them as ''appalling old waxworks'' in extracts from his journal after he visited Hong Kong in 1997 for the handover ceremony.

In 1999, he was accused of boycotting a Chinese state visit to the UK by failing to attend the return banquet held for the then-president Jiang Zemin, who two years earlier attended the Hong Kong ceremony.

Charles's former aide Mark Bolland later revealed it was "a deliberate snub", adding: "He did not approve of the Chinese regime, and is a great supporter of the Dalai Lama, whom he views as being oppressed by the Chinese."

While Charles will not be at the banquet, the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge are widely anticipated to be attending the evening affair - the couple's first state banquet in the UK - but the guest list is yet to be officially confirmed.

It will only be the third time Kate has been seen in a tiara - the others being her wedding in 2011 and a diplomatic reception in 2013.

Mr Corbyn will also be among the guests - possibly in white tie and tails.

William will call on the president at the palace ahead of the banquet and the Duke and Duchess will join Mr Xi at a UK Creative Industries event in London on Wednesday.

The Duke visited Beijing earlier this year and is set to record a speech on illegal wildlife trade on the eve of the visit which will be later broadcast on Chinese television.

Officials are particularly keen to ensure the trip goes well. It is an important one for the Government aimed at deepening Britain's ties with the world's second-largest economy.

UK-China relations were briefly thrust into the deep-freeze after Mr Cameron's meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2012 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.

On Wednesday, Mr Xi will visit Imperial College London with Mr Osborne, attend the UK Creative Industries event with William and Kate, hold talks at Downing Street and go to a banquet at Guildhall with the Duke of York, given by the Lord Mayor and the City of London Corporation.

He will bid farewell to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on Thursday and visit the global satellite communication firm Inmarsat with the Duke of York before joining Andrew at a conference hosted by UCL Institute of Education.

On Thursday evening, the president and his wife will dine with Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha at Chequers.

On Friday October 23, Mr Xi will join Mr Cameron at Manchester City Football Academy and Manchester Airport, and have lunch with the PM at Manchester Town Hall.