The Chinese government was behind apparently spontaneous Chinese flag-waving in London to welcome president Xi Jinping on his state visit, evidence appears to show.
Photographs produced by Amnesty UK appear to show Chinese government diplomatic cargo boxes full of flags, T-shirts and other merchandise destined for the country’s embassy in Britain.
Diplomatic cargo can only be sent by government officials and by international law it can only contain items meant for official use.
Thousands of people, most of them Chinese students at British universities, lined the Mall waving flags to welcome the Chinese President as his state carriage procession made its way to Buckingham Palace.
Mr Xi is visiting the UK this week, but on previous visits Chinese dignitaries have complained about human rights protesters holding demonstrations.
The Chinese Embassy did not respond to a request for comment by The Independent.
A spokesperson for Amnesty International said it looked like the embassy had been tasked with putting on a “show of strength” for the country’s leader.
“This appears to show that the Chinese embassy has been shipping in flags, hats, T-shirts and other pro-China merchandise as diplomatic baggage in order to put on a show of strength and support for the visiting President,” she said.
“All this for a president who has presided over an unprecedented crack down on human rights.
“Dissenting voices are hardly heard at all in China due to censorship and people getting locked up, and it seems China is attempting to similarly make sure that protestors here are drowned out and overshadowed too.”
Amnesty organised a counter-demonstration on the Mall, as did the Free Tibet group, which campaigns against the Chinese presence in that area.
During his four-day visit Mr Xi has dined with the Queen in a state banquet at Buckingham Palace.
He said the UK and China were becoming a “community of shared interests” and had a “comprehensive strategic partnership”.
The visit comes amid the collapse of parts of Britain’s steelmaking industry, accusations that Chinese “dumping” at below cost price are to blame.
Mr Jinping is later expected to sign a deal that will see China building the UK’s planned Hinkley Point nuclear power plant by 2025.
State-owned Chinese nuclear company CGN will work with the French state-owned nuclear company EDF on the project.
Two other nuclear power plants could follow, with more than £30bn of deals likely to be struck during the visit.
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