Chinese President accorded royal welcome in maiden trip to UK

Queen Elizabeth II gave Chinese President Xi Jinping a ceremonial welcome.

PTI| Updated: Oct 21, 2015, 00:18 AM IST

London: Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday gave Chinese President Xi Jinping a ceremonial welcome as he arrived here on his maiden state visit to the UK during which the two sides will seal deals worth over 30 billion pounds.

The Queen was joined by husband Prince Philip and Prime Minister David Cameron as they welcomed Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, during a ceremony at Horse Guards Parade followed by a carriage procession along The Mall to arrive at Buckingham Palace for a private lunch with the royal family.

Ministers expect more than 30 billion pounds of trade and investment deals to be struck during the four-day visit, which will also include talks between Xi and Cameron.

Xi will also meet Prince Charles and his wife Duchess of Cornwall during the visit.

Human rights protesters from the Free Tibet campaign and Amnesty International were joined by supporters and tourists to see President Xi's cavalcade that was given a 41-gun salute at the Green Park nearby.

Britain's longest serving Indian-origin MP, Keith Vaz, took the opportunity to make a reference to the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November.

"Can I join you in welcoming the visit of Narendra Modi, which has caused huge excitement among the British-Indian community in places like London and indeed in Leicester? And will this enable the government to send out a message that it's not just learning Chinese that is important, that a bit of Hindi would go down well in our bilateral relations," the Leicester East MP said in the House of Commons today.

Responding, UK Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said that the UK was "looking forward" to welcoming Modi and "I very much hope you are now not going to test me on my Hindi".

Cameron and his government have been keen to keep human rights in the background of the Chinese President's visit.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he will raise human rights when he meets Xi and had yesterday forced Cameron to say he would bring up the impact of cheap Chinese imports on struggling steel-makers like India's Tata Steel.

"Will we raise it with the Chinese? Of course, we'll raise all these issues. That is what our relationship with China is all about.

"It is at such a high level that there is no subject off the table and all of these issues, including the steel industry, of course will be discussed," Cameron had told the Commons.

The visit the first UK state visit by a Chinese leader since 2005 ? has been hailed by officials from both the countries as the start of a "golden era" of relations.

Chinese companies are to be allowed to take a stake in British nuclear power plants, and a trip by Xi and Cameron to Manchester later this week is expected to see the announcement of further investment in the so-called "Northern powerhouse" project.

Another deal expected to be signed during Xi's visit is a plan for two state-owned Chinese utilities to invest in a 16 billion-pound nuclear power project being built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in southwest England.