The Latest: Queen toasts China's Xi at lavish state banquet

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2015 4:16 PM
The Latest: Queen toasts China's Xi at lavish state banquet

LONDON (AP) — The latest news of the first full day of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Britain. All times local:

9:15 p.m.

Queen Elizabeth II has celebrated what she called the "global partnership" between Britain and China during a speech at a state banquet to mark the Chinese president's visit.

The Chinese national anthem played as the guests, assembled at Buckingham Palace's lavishly decorated ballroom, rose for a toast to Xi Jinping and his wife.

Prince William's wife Kate, wearing a sequined red gown and a diamond tiara, sat next to Xi at the head table.

The guests, dressed in formal evening gowns and white ties and tails, are to dine on turbot and venison.

Earlier, Xi met with Britain's new opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who raised China's human rights record and the impact of its exports on the British steel industry in private talks.

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6:15 p.m.

Dissident Chinese lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng has attended a protest during President Xi Jinping's visit to Britain and urged British leaders not to ignore the issue of human rights.

Chen says many rights lawyers like him continue to suffer persecution and torture in China. In an interview with the BBC, Chen said the British government should engage with the Chinese people, not just the Chinese Communist Party.

Chen said he doesn't believe there is any conflict between trade and human rights — he says while trade is important, human rights are "like air and water, and no one can live without it."

The blind activist escaped house arrest in China in 2012, fleeing to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He is now based in the United States.

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5:45 p.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife are expected to dine on turbot and venison at a gala state dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip.

Buckingham Palace officials Tuesday released the menu for the grand event, which will include more than 170 guests for a sit-down meal in a palace ballroom.

Musical selections will include Chinese folk songs, the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and "Nobody Does it Better," a James Bond theme song.

The fish course will be West Coast turbot with lobster mousse. The Balmoral venison will be prepared in a Madeira and truffle sauce.

Desserts will include a dark chocolate, mango and lime confection and the fine wine selection will be set off by a vintage port.

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5:15 p.m.

To welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife on their state visit, Queen Elizabeth II has given the couple a collection of Shakespeare's sonnets and a pair of candlesticks.

Xi is said to be a keen reader of the Bard, and the sonnets were presented in a specially-made leather and gilt box. The queen also presented her traditional gift to world leaders — a pair of silver framed photographs of herself and Prince Philip.

In return, Xi gifted the queen two of his wife's folk song albums — first lady Peng Liyuan is a celebrated singer in China.

Xi also presented the queen with a work of embroidery, a large porcelain dish and a stamp booklet.

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4:40 p.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has addressed Britain's political leaders and lawmakers in Parliament.

Xi, who arrived at Parliament after lunching with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, spoke about the history of Britain's friendship with China and how both countries are increasingly interdependent with shared interests. He said he is certain that the two countries can take bilateral relations to a new height.

Prime Minister David Cameron sat with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in the audience, which included politicians from all parties.

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3:20 p.m.

Queen Elizabeth II has taken the Chinese president and his wife on a tour of the Royal Collection in Buckingham Palace.

The queen is showing Xi Jinping, who is on a state visit to Britain, a display of items relating to China.

Earlier, Prince Charles and Xi held a private meeting where reporters were denied access. The occasion was somewhat diplomatically sensitive: Charles, the heir to the throne, hasn't had smooth relations with Chinese leaders in the past. He has met the Dalai Lama a number of times over the years, and in 1999 he was accused of boycotting a Chinese state visit to the U.K. by failing to attend a banquet held for then-President Jiang Zemin.

Charles isn't attending the state banquet in Buckingham Palace later Tuesday. Royal officials say it wasn't a snub and that Charles was focusing on private talks with Xi.

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1:20 p.m.

Minutes after Chinese President Xi Jinping was received with pomp and pageantry at Buckingham Palace, lawmakers questioned Britain's relations with China in an urgent parliamentary session called after new British steel job losses were blamed on cheap Chinese imports.

Opposition lawmaker Kevin Brennan questioned how the British government could secure the future of his country's steel industry in the face of China selling steel at a loss on world markets, including Britain.

Tata Steel announced Tuesday it was cutting 1,200 jobs in the U.K., blaming the layoffs on Chinese imports.

Trade associations want Prime Minister David Cameron to press the Chinese president on steel "dumping" and fears about further job losses.

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12:40 p.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived at Buckingham Palace in style — in a gilded carriage drawn by white horses.

The royal coach drove up the wide thoroughfare of the Mall, which was lined with British and Chinese flags, and by hundreds of well-wishers and counter-protesters.

Demonstrators from human rights and pro-Tibet groups jostled with Xi well-wishers, who far outnumbered them and whose chants of "China! China" drowned out their rivals.

Talon Li, a Chinese finance student at Greenwich University, said he had arrived at 5:30 a.m. with some classmates to welcome Xi and support closer ties between the two countries.

"It's great," he said. "U.K. and China will really help each other. They should stay friends. Every British and Chinese person can be friends."

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12:30 p.m.

Tata Steel has announced plans to cut 1,200 jobs in the U.K., underscoring the damage caused by cheap Chinese imports and throwing a shroud over the first day of a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping designed to usher in a "golden era" of relations between the two countries.

The announcement of layoffs in northeast England and Scotland flatly blames the job losses on a "flood of cheap imports, particularly from China," together with a strong pound and high electricity costs. Though the layoffs have been rumored for days, the timing of the announcement — coming on the first day of Xi's visit — seemed certain to win maximum attention.

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12:20 p.m.

The Chinese state visit has opened with military pomp — a genre at which both Britain and China excel.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan have been greeted by Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip and dignitaries including Prime Minister David Cameron at Horse Guards parade-ground in central London. The Chinese leader was welcomed with a 41-gun artillery salute before inspecting an honor guard of troops from the Grenadier Guards in scarlet tunics and bearskin hats.

Later, the British monarch and her guests will take a carriage ride along the flag-lined Mall to Buckingham Palace, about a half-mile (1 kilometer) away.

Hundreds of people lined the route ahead of time, with pro-China demonstrators waving red flags outnumbering protesters from human rights and pro-Tibet groups.

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11:25 a.m.

Supporters of Chinese President Xi Jinping are gathering in London for a gala arrival ceremony to mark the official start of his state visit.

Chinese and British flags lined the route where the procession will take place, with some dancing in the street with a dragon costume.

Others wore T-shirts with "I (Heart) China," with half of the heart filled in with part of the Chinese flag and the other half with part of the Union Jack, and small Chinese flags painted on their cheeks.

Xi is to receive a formal welcoming ceremony and a carriage ride to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday before he addresses both houses of Parliament. Xi will be a guest of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip.

His visit is expected to spark some protests by those who question closer ties to China because of its human rights record.

Xi is also expected to meet with Prince Charles Tuesday and to attend a palace banquet.

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8:30 a.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will address Britain's Parliament on the first full day of a state visit including a ceremonial carriage ride and a dinner at Buckingham Palace.

The U.K. government has rejected accusations it is pandering to China to secure investment during a visit that is expected to lead to 30 billion pounds ($46 billion) in trade deals — including a key role in building nuclear power plants in Britain.

Besides longstanding concerns about human rights, Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to raise the issue of China selling steel at a loss on world markets. British steel companies are in crisis — with 1,200 layoffs expected Tuesday at Tata Steel — just weeks after 2,200 jobs were lost at SSI's plant in northeast England.