LONDON: Britain’s Prince Charles is to skip a state banquet during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping next week, the office of the heir to the throne said on Wednesday.
The Prince of Wales will hold “one-to-one talks” with the president but will not attend the banquet, to be hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Charles is a supporter of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader whom China views as a dangerous separatist.
The prince was accused of boycotting a Chinese state visit to Britain in 1999, when he failed to attend a banquet hosted for Jiang Zemin, who was then Chinese president.
A former private secretary to Charles, Mark Bolland, described it as “a deliberate snub” in a court statement in 2006.
“He did not approve of the Chinese regime, and is a great supporter of the Dalai Lama, whom he views as being oppressed by the Chinese,” Bolland said.
Charles also described Chinese leaders as “appalling old waxworks” in journal writings about the 1997 transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to China. The jibes were later published in the press.
A statement from his official residence, Clarence House, emphasised that Charles would spend ample time with Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan during the trip, which begins on October 20.
“The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have significant involvement in the state visit by the president of the People’s Republic of China,” a Clarence House spokeswoman said.
Charles and his wife Camilla are to meet Xi and Peng at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Tuesday, before travelling to a ceremonial welcome and lunch at Buckingham Palace.
Xi and Peng will then be guests at Clarence House for tea, the spokeswoman said.
The state banquet will take place later that day, with leader of the opposition Labour party Jeremy Corbyn among those attending.
A spokesman for the left-wing campaigner did not rule out the possibility he could raise concerns about China’s human rights record at the dinner.
“He will be raising issues about human rights next week,” the spokesman said, adding that Corbyn would prefer to broach the topic in private discussions and was seeking to meet Beijing representatives separately.
“We are always concerned that the government doesn’t raise human rights issues as well as it should,” the spokesman added.
The visit by Xi comes as Britain strives to strengthen ties with Beijing and build business links with the world’s second-largest economy.
It follows a trip to China by British finance minister George Osborne last month, during which he said Britain should be China’s “best partner in the West”.
Diplomatic relations between the two states had cooled in 2012, when British Prime Minister David Cameron met with the Dalai Lama in London.