11 May 2016

Queen brands Chinese officials ‘very rude’

The Queen is filmed describing Chinese officials as “very rude” after David Cameron is caught on camera describing Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt”.

Their remarks at Buckingham Palace yesterday coincide with preparations for an international anti-corruption summit in London on Thursday and could prove embarrassing for Britain’s international relations.

The Queen, who also featured in the video with the prime minister, was speaking at a garden party about last year’s state visit by President Xi Jinping.

Talking to Metropolitan Police Commander Lucy D’Orsi, who was in charge of security during President Xi’s visit, she said Chinese officials had been “very rude” to Britain’s ambassador to China.

Both conversations were filmed by a Buckingham Palace cameraman. The footage from the garden party has not been shown on news bulletins in China, where censorship is common.

‘Extremely successful’

A spokeswoman for the Queen said: “We do not comment on the Queen’s private conversations. However, the Chinese state visit was extremely successful and all parties worked closely to ensure it proceeded smoothly.”

It is not the first time a member of the royal family has made undiplomatic comments about Chinese officials. The Prince of Wales called Chinese diplomats “appalling old waxworks” in a private journal entry about the Hong Kong handover ceremony in 1997.

The Nigerian and Afghan Presidents, Muhammadu Buhari and Ashraf Ghani, are attending the anti-corruption summit. Mr Cameron described both nations as “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”.


President Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu said: “This is embarrassing to us, to us say the least, given the good work that the president is doing.

“The eyes of the world are on what is happening here. The Prime Minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. Things are changing with corruption and everything else.”

A spokesman for the Afghan embassy in London said President Ghani had “taken major steps to fight corruption”, which was a “top priority” for the country.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the Chinese state visit in October had “got a bit stressful on both sides”.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s remarks, he said: “These are both countries with serious corruption problems and the leaders of both those countries know they have those problems and are determined to deal with them.”

‘Speaking his mind’

Asked whether Mr Cameron should apologise, former mayor of London Boris Johnson told BBC Breakfast: “I think most people will find it refreshing he was speaking his mind. The more people who speak their minds, the better, in my view.”

Mr Cameron is being urged by former prime minister Gordon Brown to impose sanctions against British overseas territories and crown dependencies that continue to act as tax havens for the wealthy.