President Xi Jinping will travel to Britain on a state visit later this year, Reuters reported.
Hugo Swire, a junior British Foreign Office minister, disclosed Xi’s plans after Swire was criticised in Parliament Tuesday for choosing not to summon the Chinese ambassador over China’s refusal to allow members of a parliamentary committee to visit Hong Kong.
A state visit usually includes a meeting with the Queen, a visit to Parliament and a meeting with the prime minister. It would reflect the warming economic relations between China and Britain even though political tensions persist, the report said.
Swire said he’d spoken to the ambassador about the issue and other aspects of Sino-British relations, including Prince William’s planned visit to China “and a state visit from President Xi later on in the year”.
Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have strained bilateral ties. China prevented members of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee from visiting the city last month as part of an inquiry into Britain’s relations with its former colony.
Members of the committee criticised the British government Tuesday for not doing more to protest against what they said was an insult to Parliament and Britain as a whole, the report said.
“How much more offensive does the Chinese government need to be before we say ‘I think we need to summon them’?” Richard Ottaway, the committee’s chairman, asked Swire.
Swire said he’d visited China last week and raised the issue with the Chinese foreign minister. He said summoning the ambassador “wouldn’t have served any purpose”.
The lawmakers also suggested Britain hadn’t been supportive enough of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, accusing it of being too focused on safeguarding its own business interests.
Swire, who said he had concerns about the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press in Hong Kong, strongly rejected that, saying he felt Britain had struck “just about the right balance” in its relations with China.
“We need to understand each other’s cultures and respect each other,” he said. “I would refute the suggestion that we have in any way kowtowed to the Chinese government.”
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