Chinese president getting official welcome

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The Independent Online

China dismissed human rights protests Tuesday as President Jiang Zemin began a round of royal welcomes and official hospitality on his first full day in Britain.

China dismissed human rights protests Tuesday as President Jiang Zemin began a round of royal welcomes and official hospitality on his first full day in Britain.

A state banquet was planned at Buckingham Palace Tuesday night, and Jiang was scheduled to confer with Prime Minister Tony Blair at No. 10 Downing St. on Thursday.

Two people were arrested for breach of the peace Monday night as human rights groups, including the Free Tibet campaign and Amnesty International, organized a candlelight vigil outside Jiang's hotel. The demonstration, which Scotland Yard said involved about 20 people, ended late Monday.

'We feel it is totally inappropriate for the resident to be entertained by the queen and (Prime Minister) Tony Blair while the human rights issue is brushed under the carpet,' said Alison Reynolds of the Free Tibet campaign.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said human rights protests could harm relations between the two countries.

'A small number of hostile elements want to stir up protests during President Jiang's visit to Britain and other European countries. It would undermine relations between China and those countries,' she said, but predicted the British government would 'take action to ensure the success of the visit.'

Later the Chinese President left Hyde Park Hotel in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce, accompanied by the Princess Royal.

A small crowd of well-wishers gathered on the pavement outside the hotel to watch the pair leave and there was no sign of any protesters.

A red carpet was laid from the hotel's back entrance to the waiting Rolls-Royce.

Asked what he thought of Great Britain as he made his way to the vehicle Mr Jiang replied: 'Very good'.

The Princess Royal, wearing a red coat and hat, arrived at the hotel at about 12.10pm before leaving with the president twenty minutes later en-route for Horse Guards Parade.

Jiang is the first Chinese head of state to visit Britain. He will also visit France, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia on his two-week itinerary.

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