UK Politics

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets the Queen on UK visit

The Queen and Li Keqiang Image copyright PA
Image caption The Queen greeted Mr Li and his wife Cheng Hong at Windsor Castle

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has been received by the Queen on the first full day of his official visit to the UK.

Mr Li has also been holding talks with David Cameron in Downing Street.

It is the first UK visit by a Chinese premier since a row in 2012 over Mr Cameron's meeting with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Mr Li has said he hopes the trip will help to "change misperceptions and misgivings" about his country as well as further business and cultural ties.

The UK has said it remains "deeply concerned" about human rights abuses in China.

High-level relations between the UK and China were frozen for a time after Mr Cameron's meeting with the Dalai Lama but, after a change of leadership at the top of the Chinese Communist Party in March 2013, Mr Cameron visited the country in December.

Visa changes

Crowds gathered at Windsor Castle to watch Mr Li's arrival, with Chinese tourists among those who watched his entourage enter the grounds in a fleet of limousines.

The Queen was joined by the Duke of York in the White Drawing Room, where she smiled and shook Mr Li's hand.

The Chinese premier was accompanied by his wife, Cheng Hong.

The Sino-British ministerial summit in No 10 was also attended by Foreign Secretary William Hague, Chancellor George Osborne and Energy Secretary Ed Davey.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The two leaders are holding talks in Downing Street
Image copyright PA
Image caption Pro-Tibet activists took part in a protest against the Chinese premier outside Downing Street
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption While supporters of the Chinese premier were also out in force

At the start of Mr Li's three-day visit, the Home Office announced a new visa service, to be offered to all Chinese visitors to the UK following a pilot programme for tour operators last year.

Business visitors and tourists will be able to use a single application for their visas for Britain as well as for a Schengen visa, which allows access to 26 European countries.

The move comes after Chinese authorities complained about the difficulties in travelling to the UK compared with other European countries - where one visa allows people to visit almost all the other EU member states.

Announcing the changes, Home Secretary Theresa May said the number of Chinese visitors to Britain was "soaring".

Mr Li, who has been accompanied by a large business delegation, is expected to formally agree commercial deals and investments worth up to £18bn in areas such as energy and finance.

UK Trade and Investment said there had been more inward investment from China in the UK economy in the past 18 months than in the previous 30 years, with £8bn spent in 2013-4.

Analysis: Carrie Gracie, BBC China editor

Today is a mix of pomp, politics and money.

Act One is at Windsor Castle for an audience with the Queen - for Mr Li, a priceless photo opportunity to impress the public back home.

Act Two is at Downing Street - a prime ministerial summit to underline the message that business is now at the heart of the UK-China relationship, with the prickly topic of human rights discussed behind closed doors.

But there will be two episodes with less predictable choreography - a Tibetan demonstration against the Chinese premier in Whitehall and a brief news conference with the British media. The Chinese will expect both to be carefully controlled.

For Act Three of his day Mr Li will be safely back in his comfort zone - addressing a business audience over dinner at the Natural History Museum.

Negotiations to end a Chinese ban on imports of British beef and lamb are to be announced.

Restrictions were imposed by China in response to the BSE outbreak in the 1980s and 1990s but it is expected that formal official-level talks will begin on opening up a market that could be worth up to £120m to the British economy.

The Chinese premier is visiting the UK as part of a tour of European countries.

Campaign group Free Tibet wrote to the Queen calling on her not to meet Mr Li.

The letter said their meeting "does not appear to be in the interests of the monarchy, the United Kingdom, or those resisting oppression across the world".

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites