Jiang sidesteps protestors for talks with Blair

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Chinese President Jiang Zemin met Tony Blair in Downing Street today as pressure grew over the police handling of demonstrations surrounding the visit.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin met Tony Blair in Downing Street today as pressure grew over the police handling of demonstrations surrounding the visit.

President Jiang arrived through a side entrance into Downing Street, avoiding a crowd of several hundred chanting and whistle-blowing demonstrators in Whitehall.

The two men were having lunch accompanied by up to eight ministers from each country.

Earlier, Mr Blair's official spokesman stressed that while human rights would be discussed, they should "not define our relationship with China".

He said other issues such as China's application to join the World Trade Organisation, investment and China's role on the world stage would also be discussed.

The spokesman, however, confirmed that Britain had submitted in private a list of named individuals currently jailed in China about whom the Government was concerned.

Earlier, President Jiang met Conservative leader William Hague at Buckingham Palace.

A Tory spokesman said that around 20 minutes of their 40-minute meeting was taken up by a discussion on human rights issues, including political freedoms within China, but mostly concentrating on the Tibetan issue.

"William raised our very real concerns about the situation in Tibet and the plight of political dissidents," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile some Labour MPs began expressing their unhappiness at the crackdown on demonstrations during the visit.

Norman Godman, a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: "If the protests are peaceful and lawful there is no reason at all why such protests should not take place even if it embarrasses, as it is bound to do, the President of China."

David Winnick, a member of the Home Affairs Committee, said: "As long as dissidents and demonstrators behave peacefully then I think they should be allowed to express their concerns within hearing and sight of the visitor."

But chairman of the all-party group on China, Labour MP Ben Chapman, denied demonstrations had been curtailed.

He said: "I have been travelling in the wake of the President quite a lot and there have been plenty of visible and peaceful demonstrations."

Tory shadow foreign secretary John Maples has described police tactics for shielding Jiang from protesters as "over the top".

Campaigners from Free Tibet have also written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon to complain about protesters - including Chinese dissidents and exiled Tibetans - being wrestled to the ground and having Tibetan flags torn from their hands.

"I've been surprised at some of the actions of the police, at not letting people unfurl banners," said Mr Maples.

"Clearly they have got to protect the security of the Queen and the Chinese President but I met Wei Jing Sheng yesterday, who is probably China's leading dissident, and when he tried to unfurl a banner which simply said 'Free Political Prisoners', he had it snatched away from him by the police, his arms grabbed and held until the carriage passed.

"That seems to me to be going over the top."