Xi Jinping has hailed the close ties between his country and the UK during a speech at the British parliament. Xi's UK visit is marked by pomp and pageantry as well as protests against China's human rights violations.
President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that China and the UK were becoming "increasingly interdependent" during a speech at Westminster.
"The two countries are becoming a community of shared interests," he said in his speech to British parliamentarians on the first day of his UK visit.
"I am already deeply impressed by the vitality of China-UK relations and the profound friendship between our peoples," he added.
Xi was welcomed to the parliament by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, as a leader of a nation "that is both very ancient and truly modern."
"Your visit today, Mr. President, reinforces the links between the United Kingdom and China. Those links are social and personal, as well as economic and political, and are all the stronger for it," Bercow said in his welcoming address.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who is scheduled to meet Xi on Tuesday, said that the UK and China would likely sign deals worth some 30 billion pounds ($45 billion, 41 billion euros). One particular deal expected to be finalized during Xi's visit is a plan for two state-owned Chinese utilities to invest in a 16-billion-pound nuclear power project built by French utility EdF at Hinkley Point in the southwest of England.
Pomp and protests
Earlier in the day, Xi and his wife were taken on a royal tour of the Buckingham palace by Queen Elizabeth II. Xi's visit to the palace was steeped in pageantry, which underlined the importance of changing British-China relations.
The Chinese president also held a meeting with Prince Charles, who hasn't had good ties with Chinese leaders in the past, boycotting previous visitors. On several occasions, Charles had met with the Tibetan Buddhists' spiritual leader Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese communist leaders consider a separatist.
But Xi's first day in London was not all about pomp and glory. Hundreds of human rights activists had gathered near the Queen's residence protesting against China's dismal rights record. They were shouting "Don't trade away human rights" and "China: Buying the UK's silence on Tibet."
"The visit shows that England is not giving a damn about human rights," Aisha Nahmmacher, a 24-year-old girl from south London, told Reuters news agency.
shs/msh (Reuters, dpa, AP)