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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 17:04 GMT
Protests follow Chinese president
Chinese president Hu Jintao holds talks with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
The prime minister and Chinese president met at Downing Street
About 400 protesters gathered on Whitehall as Chinese president Hu Jintao held talks with Tony Blair on the second day of his state visit.

Critics of China's human rights record want the UK prime minister to speak publicly about human rights in China.

An agreement opening the Chinese market to specialist insurer Lloyd's of London was brokered in the Downing Street talks along with contracts worth 783m.

Climate change and UN Security Council co-operation were also on the agenda.

About a dozen police officers kept order while protesters from groups, including the Free Tibet Campaign and Friends of Falun Gong, waved flags and banners behind railings opposite at the entrance to Downing Street.

But the protesters' chants were drowned out by about 50 of the president's supporters banging drums and waving the Chinese flag.

Free Tibet protesters
It is time for the Chinese people to have a proper life without communist control
Friends of Tiananmen Mothers director Ze Xia

Helen Chantry, of Friends of Falun Gong, said they had agreed with the Metropolitan Police the protest would not be too loud.

She said: "Our group had been told not to bring instruments or make too much noise, yet the China welcoming committee are here with their drums drowning out our protests."

Alison Reynolds, director of the Free Tibet Campaign, said the protesters were urging Mr Blair to make a statement about China's treatment of political prisoners and media freedom around the Olympic Games.

They also wanted to ask Mr Hu to meet the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Philipa Carrick, of the Tibet Society, said Mr Blair spoke of promoting democracy in the world while dealing with China "where there is no democracy or freedom of expression".

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Blair had discussed "political developments and human rights in China" with Mr Hu, but it had been a "private dialogue" and would not be the subject of any public statement.

Whether you despise the Chinese regime or not, the reality is that they have the upper hand
Hans Stiles, Chessington, England

But University College linguistics lecturer Yi Xu, of the Federation for Saying Goodbye To The Chinese Communist Party, said: "It is not enough to mention human rights behind closed doors.

"They must do it in the open so that the message is spread to ordinary people."

Friends of Tiananmen Mothers director Ze Xia said she had been exiled from China since her 19-year-old cousin had been shot dead in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

"The soldiers shot him because he was trying to take a picture of the historical moment in Tiananmen Square."

As he lay on the ground, two ambulances came, she said, "but the soldiers would not allow anyone to help him".

Human rights

"It is time for the Chinese people to have a proper life without Communist control."

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said China's human rights record had not improved.

"There are literally hundreds of thousands of people in prison.

"It is a regime that executes 10,000 people each year... life is treated appallingly cheaply and human rights have no place."

At a banquet at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night, Mr Hu said his country was working to build "a moderately prosperous society, featuring a more developed economy, improved democracy, advanced science and education, a more prosperous culture, greater social harmony and higher living standards for the entire 1.3 billion people".

Insurer Lloyd's wins China deal
09 Nov 05 |  Business
In pictures: China visit
08 Nov 05 |  In Pictures
Profile: Hu Jintao
16 Sep 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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