LONDON - A small but noisy group of human rights and pro-Tibet protesters chanted and waved banners at Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday as he was driven in a gilded horse-drawn carriage to Buckingham Palace at the start of a state visit to Britain.
They shouted and waved Tibetan flags with banners reading "Don't trade away human rights" and "China: Buying UK's silence on Tibet" as Xi and Queen Elizabeth rode past in the closed ceremonial carriage.
The group of around 80 people was hugely outnumbered by spectators waving Chinese flags and kept well back from the processional route up to the palace by a large police presence.
The activists included backers of Falun Gong, the spiritual sect banned as a cult in China.
Xi is being feted by the royal family and leading politicians during the trip this week which Prime Minister David Cameron hopes will cement Britain's lucrative place as China's closest friend in the West.
Cameron has said he will not duck sensitive issues like human rights during the visit. "There is nothing off the table in our discussions with the Chinese," his spokeswoman said.
The trip has also ruffled feathers among some of Britain's traditional allies, such as the United States, where Xi's visit last month was tainted by friction over cyber theft and Beijing's moves in Asian maritime disputes.