Britain welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping for a three-day state visit on Tuesday as several groups planned to protest China’s human rights abuses.
Hundreds of protesters and supporters of Xi gathered near Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth’s London residence, ahead of the official welcome ceremony and a series of meetings between the Chinese leader and members of the royal family.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who is scheduled to meet Xi on Tuesday before formal talks on Wednesday, said he expected the two sides to sign deals valued at some 30 billion pounds (45 billion dollars) during the visit.
“This is going to be a very important moment for British-Chinese relations,” Cameron said.
“Trade and investment between our two nations is growing and our people-to-people links are strong,” he said.
The two leaders would also discuss how they can “work together on global issues such as climate change and tackling poverty” and explore “a real opportunity to deepen our relationship,” Cameron said.
Ahead of the visit, some observers have lamented the British government’s outwardly soft line on pushing China to improve its human rights while pursuing what Cameron called a “golden era” of economic ties.
Agreements are expected to be signed this week on controversial Chinese investment in the construction of Britain’s first nuclear plant for 20 years, Hinkley Point C, and possible contracts for Chinese firms to build another nuclear plant in Bradwell in Essex, close to London.