Chinese Premier visit sparks demonstration

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The Independent Online

Pro-Tibetan protesters scuffled with police today as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived at the Chinese Embassy in London.

Police said that five males were arrested for public order offences after trying to push past officers to get to the doors of the building. Protesters said that a small number of their group were trying to take the Free Tibet flag to the doors of the Embassy.

The group had gathered outside the building near London's Regents Park to greet Mr Wen with boos and jeers when he arrived.

Members of the Free Tibet group faced pro-Chinese protesters on either side of the road who greeted the other with noisy cheers and chants.

On the Chinese side of the road there was traditional drumming, dragon dancing and firecrackers to welcome Mr Wen.

The majority of the protests passed off peacefully, said a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police, and broke up shortly before 2pm.

Mr Wen is visiting the UK to meet with British leaders. Earlier he discussed the economic downturn with Tory leader David Cameron and Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague. Yesterday he spoke with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and visited Chinatown.

Later today he is expected to take part in celebrations to mark the start of the Chinese New Year.

Mr Wen is in Britain for three days before visiting Germany, Spain, the EU Headquarters in Brussels and the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Tibetan Ugyan Norbu, who has lived in Britain for 30 years but comes originally from the south-west of the country said: "For too long the British government have appeased the Chinese government. The British government is in the best position to negotiate with the Chinese on Tibet. I know the British people won't let us down but the British government are still appeasing the Chinese."

He criticised media coverage of the Chinese New Year pointing out that the Tibetan's New Year starts on a different date but is not marked in Britain in the same way.

He said: "It's either ignorance or bias either way it is very careless and does not show any respect to the growing number of Tibetans living in this country and the British people who believe in Free Tibet."

He said: "As far as I'm concerned Tibet is caged and has been for 50 years. Tibetan people cannot go in or out. They live in terror of the Chinese authorities.

"They call us hooligans but we are not hooligans. We have to come here and demonstrate and speak the truth, we have to do it, we can do no other."