Protests as Chinese President begins controversial state visit to the UK

Human rights protesters line up placards as they wait for China's President Xi Jinping to pass on the Mall during his ceremonial welcome in London.Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping begins an extravagant state visit to the UK today.

Xi is staying as a guest at Buckingham Palace and processed along the mall earlier where he was greeted by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prime Minister. No expense is being spared as Xi, along with his celebrity wife Peng Liyuan, will address MPs and Lords later, will hold talks with David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn and will attend a state banquet this evening.

The Government are hoping the trip will help develop economic and diplomatic ties between Britain and China and ministers are expecting more than £30bn of trade and investment deals to be secured over the four-day visit.

However not everyone is happy at the luxury being offered to the Chinese President.

"If you act like a panting puppy, the object of your attention is going to think they have got you on a leash," said James McGregor, chairman of consultancy group APCO Worldwide's Chinese operations.

Amnesty International has highlighted extensive human rights abuses in China and urged Cameron to use the opportunity to raise this with Xi. Amnesty and other human rights groups are protesting in London today.

"China is in the middle of its most intense crackdown on human rights for years and the human rights of ordinary Chinese citizens – including that growing middle class – must not be ignored in order to secure trade deals," a statement on Amnesty's website read.

Additionally, Human Rights Watch has warned there is extensive use of torture in Chinese jails. Other concerns include China's heavy restriction of the media and a lack of workers' rights.

However a Downing Street spokeswoman has given assurances that China's human rights record will be discussed during two rounds of "substantial" talks.

"Nothing is off the table" in political talks with Xi, she said.

Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary also defended the lavish treatment of Xi. He denied the government was being "naive", saying it was "very much in our national interest to engage with China".

"I think we are developing a mature relationship with the Chinese," he said. "They know that we are looking not just to China but to many other countries for infrastructure investment in the UK."

He added: "We will certainly take the opportunity to raise issues which will be uncomfortable.

"There is a popular misconception that you have to choose to do either trade and business or you discuss wider issues...such as human rights. Quite the opposite.

"The more deeply embedded we are in each other's economies...the more engaged we are with each other, the more opportunity we have to have a genuine discussion about these things, a frank discussion – not just megaphone diplomacy but actually talking to one another."