Charles did not boycott Chinese president, says Palace

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The Independent Online

Royal officials today quashed reports that the Prince of Wales snubbed the Chinese president by boycotting a state banquet.

Royal officials today quashed reports that the Prince of Wales snubbed the Chinese president by boycotting a state banquet.

St James's Palace said Charles attended a private engagement last night while the Queen and other Royals attended a banquet at the Chinese embassy.

While the Queen, Prince Philip, the Duke of York, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra and Sir Angus Ogilvy attended the embassy, the Prince was at a private dinner in St James's Palace.

A St James's Palace spokeswoman said his absence was not a snub to President Jiang Zemin.

She pointed out that the Prince met the President at the banquet given by the Queen on Tuesday to mark the start of the state visit by the Chinese leader.

She said last night: "It's unhelpful to speculate at this stage of the state visit.

"The Prince went to the banquet on Tuesday and he had a private engagement tonight. It is not a snub."

A Buckingham Palace spokesman added that the Prince went to the banquet on Tuesday and was not scheduled to go to last night's event.

Today the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury, who chairs a Parliamentary human rights group, said the Prince of Wales had "dropped a hint" to the Chinese by staying away from the banquet.

"I think the Prince of Wales has demonstrated in the past that he has a great affinity for the Dalai Lama and sympathy for the people of Tibet, and I think this is about the only way that he could demonstrate that," said Lord Avebury.

"He can't come out and say to President Jiang that he is disgusted with the human rights policies of the Chinese government and the repression that continues in Tibet, so by staying away from the banquet, he signals his displeasure in the only way that is open to him.

"I think this is very useful, because it must prove to President Jiang that it isn't simply the demonstrators - who represent a wide section of the population - but that the distaste for the Chinese policies extends throughout the whole of our society," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The Queen said goodbye to China's President Jiang Zemin today on the final day of his controversial state visit.

President Jiang, whose presence in Britain has sparked human rights protests, left Buckingham Palace in a royal Rolls-Royce flying the Red Flag.

For once, there were no demonstrators outside the Palace as his motorcade headed towards Cambridge, where he is visiting the university.

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