Chinese PM demands audience with Queen on visit to Britain
Chinese officials threatened to cancel a senior leader’s visit to the UK next week unless the prime minister was granted an audience with the Queen
The Chinese prime minister threatened to scrap an upcoming visit to the UK unless he was granted an audience with the Queen, it has been claimed.
Li Keqiang insisted on meeting Her Majesty during a three-day trip that is due to start on Tuesday and issued a “direct threat of cancellation” unless that wish was granted, The Times reported on Thursday.
British officials see Mr Li’s visit as a crucial opportunity to strengthen relations between the two countries, particularly in the wake of an 18-month diplomatic freeze imposed by China following a 2012 meeting between David Cameron and the Dalai Lama.
Chinese and British officials are expected to address “a wide range of bilateral issues, including trade, investment, commercial opportunities, energy and cultural ties” during the visit, a Downing Street spokesperson said earlier this week.
However, in the lead up to Mr Li’s visit Chinese diplomats threatened to scrap the visit, telling British officials the proposed meeting with the Queen was a “deal-breaker”, the newspaper reported.
London appears to have acquiesced to Beijing’s demands. Mr Li will meet with the Queen during his time in the UK.
“The Chinese are hard negotiators,” a government source said.
In an unusual twist, Chinese officials also pressed British diplomats “to find out what sort of dress Samantha Cameron is likely to be wearing when Mr Li and his wife meet the Camerons,” The Times reported.
China’s insistence that their premier should meet the Queen is the second recent example of an increasingly assertive Beijing making forceful demands regarding its leaders’ overseas trips.
In February, Chinese diplomats were reported to have pressured their German counterparts to arrange a visit to Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial during a visit from Xi Jinping, the president.
China’s desire to focus on the Holocaust was seen as an attempt to embarrass and attack Japan over its actions during World War Two.
German officials refused to organise such a visit for president Xi but informed Chinese diplomats that their president “was, of course, welcome to visit World War II memorials on his own time”.