15 Oct 2015

Jeremy Corbyn to meet Chinese President one-to-one

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is to get a one-on-one meeting next week with the Chinese President Xi Jinping.  This will be his first official meeting with any head-of-state as Labour leader and will take place before he has even met The Queen, the British head of state.

What’s more, independent sources say the meeting is actually expected to take place at Buckingham Palace, before the state banquet next week.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a meeting on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York

The one-on-one meeting has also clearly been arranged to try and prevent an embarrassing semi-public challenge by Mr Corbyn on China’s human rights record when the Labour leader attends the official state banquet for President Xi at Buckingham Palace. This would have brought the Queen into the heart of controversy.

Reports suggest Mr Corbyn was willing to make a protest at the Palace unless he was granted a personal private meeting with the Chinese leader. This would have been hugely difficult for Anglo-Chinese relations during what is the first visit to Britain by a Chinese leader for ten years.

The Chinese Ambassador told Channel 4 News last night that he held a meeting with Mr Corbyn yesterday afternoon, and that relations with Mr Corbyn are “good”. The two men apparently discussed how Labour might help develop British-Chinese relations, and, according to the Ambassador, they also talked about changes to their respective parties – the British Labour Party, and the Chinese Communist Party. (The Labour leader was suitably still wearing the red tie he had at Prime Minister’s Questions.)

Next week’s personal encounter with President Xi is a small coup for Mr Corbyn since leaders of the opposition are not always granted meetings with senior foreign leaders when they visit London.

It could also be argued it’s the second significant intervention by Mr Corbyn on human rights issues in the last few days. On Monday the Justice Secretary Michael Gove announced he was cancelling a government contract with the Saudi prison service. This followed Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Labour conference in which he made a big issue of Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights.