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Tuesday, October 19, 1999 Published at 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK

UK Politics

Arrests at Jiang welcome ceremony

The Queen headed the ceremonial welcome for Jiang Zemin

A tight security operation has marked the first visit to Britain by a Chinese head of state, with some protesters complaining they had been prevented from demonstrating.

President Jiang Zemin travelled along The Mall in a closed coach during his ceremonial welcome headed by the Queen.

It has also been confirmed that the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will raise the issue of human rights in China and Tibet during talks with President Jiang.

The BBC's Nicholas Witchell: "A new chapter in relations"
Although only a small number of demonstrators turned up to line the route of the procession on Tuesday, scuffles broke out as police intervened to stop protests.

One man was detained after he tried to run at the royal carriage, while another group was prevented from holding up a Tibetan flag.

Scotland Yard later said two people had been arrested in separate incidents, but insisted there had been "no real problems".

But some protesters insisted they had been prevented from expressing their concerns over China's human rights record.

[ image: Tony Blair will join the Chinese president again for an evening banquet]
Tony Blair will join the Chinese president again for an evening banquet
Officially President Jiang received an overwhelmingly positive reception in Britain from the royal family and government ministers alike.

He was met at London's Horse Guards Parade at the start of the ceremonies by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Mr Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Home Secretary Jack Straw.

Police had asked spectators arriving for the event if they had brought eggs with them. "The president doesn't like eggs," one officer was overheard remarking.

A series of further candlelit vigils and mass rallies are planned during the remainder of the three-day visit.

The Chinese foreign ministry earlier warned the UK Government not to let protests over Tibet and China's human rights record overshadow the state visit.

"Every country has the right to guarantee the basic freedom of its citizens, but every government has the right to extend good hospitality to its guests," spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said on Tuesday morning.

"If a small number of hostile elements want to stage protests during President Jiang's visit to Britain and other European countries, it will undermine the relations between China and these European countries."

But junior Foreign Office minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal said in a Lords written reply that the government would continue to urge the Chinese to enter into discussions with Tibetan leader-in-exile the Dalai Lama as the "only realistic solution" to the issue of the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

She said: "The prime minister will indeed raise the question of human rights in China, including Tibet" at a meeting on Thursday.

[ image:  ]
Following his ride along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, the Queen and Prince Philip continued President Jiang's official welcome with lunch.

President Jiang was also entertained at a state banquet held at the palace in his honour on Tuesday evening.

Mr Blair and the Prince of Wales, who has met the Dalai Lama, also attended the banquet.

President Jiang has a reputation for being particularly sensitive to protests against his government.

During a visit to Switzerland in March he was said to be angered that pro-Tibet demonstrators were allowed to get close to him and later told the Swiss parliament: "You have lost a good friend."

[ image: Security was strict at the welcoming ceremony]
Security was strict at the welcoming ceremony
Amnesty International and the Free Tibet Campaign protested outside Buckingham Palace again on Tuesday evening when the president was among 180 guests at the state banquet.

Free Tibet Campaign director Alison Reynolds complained she and other protesters had been stopped from holding up a Tibetan flag on The Mall.

She said: "It is clear that the Chinese Government's most successful export has been its methods of suppressing free speech."

Initial demonstrations outside President Jiang's hotel on Monday night resulted in a further two arrests and led the Chinese foreign ministry to warn that political protests could undermine bilateral ties.

President Jiang's stay in Britain comes at the start of a major tour that will also take him to France, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia.

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