Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Britain on a state visit later this year, a Foreign Office minister said on Tuesday, while fending off lawmakers' accusations that London was reluctant to confront Beijing over Hong Kong.
A state visit usually includes a meeting with the Queen, a visit to parliament, and a meeting with the prime minister. It would reflect warming economic relations between China and Britain even though political tensions persist.
Hugo Swire, a junior Foreign Office minister, disclosed Xi's planned visit in parliament after being criticized by lawmakers for choosing not to summon the Chinese ambassador over China's refusal to allow them to visit Hong Kong.
Swire said he'd spoken to the ambassador about the issue as well as broader aspects of Sino-British relations in 2015 including Prince William's planned China visit "and a state visit from President Xi later on in the year."
Protests demanding greater democracy in Hong Kong, a former British colony, have strained bilateral ties, and China last year prevented members of parliament's foreign affairs committee from visiting Hong Kong as part of an inquiry into Britain's relations with the island.