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Chinese hail 2015 state visit a success despite Queen branding officials 'rude'

Published 11/05/2016

The remarks were recorded as the Queen greeted guests in the gardens of Buckingham Palace for an event marking her 90th birthday
The remarks were recorded as the Queen greeted guests in the gardens of Buckingham Palace for an event marking her 90th birthday

The Chinese Embassy has maintained that both sides made "great efforts" over last year's Chinese state visit - after the Queen was caught on camera describing the republic's officials as "very rude".

The monarch was overheard making the uncharacteristically unguarded comments at a Buckingham Palace garden party during a discussion with a Metropolitan Police commander about the difficulties of organising the stay in October by President Xi Jinping.

The Queen quipped "bad luck" when she heard that Lucy D'Orsi was assigned to be Gold Commander of the police operation around the world leader's trip to the UK.

A spokeswoman from the Chinese Embassy in the UK branded the state visit a success, but made no direct mention of the monarch.

"President Xi Jinping's state visit to the UK last year was very successful. Both sides at the working level made great efforts towards the success of the visit," the spokeswoman said.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has admitted that the important visit "got a bit stressful on both sides".

Speaking in Gibraltar, he confirmed: " Big state visits are big logistic challenges. I was involved in this and, yes, at times it got a bit stressful on both sides.

"But it was a great state visit - everybody agrees, hugely successful - and our relationship with China is very strong and has been greatly strengthened by the success of that visit."

The Queen's comments were captured by an official Palace cameraman soon after Prime Minister David Cameron was filmed describing Afghanistan and Nigeria to the monarch as "fantastically corrupt" in a separate diplomatic mishap.

When the Queen's remarks were reported on BBC World, the broadcast was blacked out in China.

Michel Hockx, director of SOAS China Institute, told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show that some on Chinese social media believed the conversation was scripted - because the official introducing Ms D'Orsi to the Queen was reading from his notes.

"It comes across as very sort of scripted and unnatural ... the fact that it was caught on camera and being put into the public domain - so some people are saying 'Well, this Queen turns out to be just another politician anyway'."

He added: "Other people are saying 'Well, we're always worried about our politicians not knowing how to behave in civilised countries like the UK and this proves they still have a lot to learn'."

Footage showed the Queen being introduced to Ms D'Orsi by Earl Peel, Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household. When Lord Peel said Ms D'Orsi had been Gold Commander for the operation, the monarch quipped: "Oh, bad luck."

Lord Peel continued to tell the Queen the officer had been "seriously undermined by the Chinese" in their handling of the visit, but added that she had managed to "hold her own".

As Ms D'Orsi asked if she knew it had been a "testing time", the Queen int erjected: "I did."

The officer described how Chinese officials walked out of a meeting at Lancaster House with Barbara Woodward, British ambassador to China, telling them the trip was off.

The Queen said: "They were very rude to the ambassador."

The remarks were recorded as the Queen greeted guests in the Palace gardens.

A Palace spokeswoman 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."

The Metropolitan Police said they would not comment on the private conversation.

It is not the first time a member of the British Royal Family has made undiplomatic comments about Chinese officials.

The Prince of Wales branded Chinese diplomats "appalling old waxworks" in a private journal entry about the Hong Kong handover ceremony in 1997.

Referencing his own microphone issue when he was recorded describing voter Gillian Duffy as a ''bigoted woman'' during the 2010 general election campaign, former prime minister Gordon Brown said: ''Lots of politicians have problems when microphones are on. Even the Queen, I understand.''

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Cameron was filmed describing Afghanistan and Nigeria in unflattering terms while he discussed an upcoming anti-corruption summit with the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"We've got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain," Mr Cameron told the Queen. "Nigeria and Afghanistan - possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world."

Rana Mitter, director of Oxford University's China Centre, suggested that China was more concerned about Britain possibly leaving the EU than remarks made by the Queen.

"I think the Chinese are extremely pragmatic on these sorts of things ... There is a perception that the UK is an important enough trading and political partner that this sort of incident isn't going to get in the way," Professor Mitter said.

"I suspect that Chinese officials are far more concerned about the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union than they are about the overheard comments of high-level figures."

He added of the Queen's comments: " My sense is that Chinese officials won't be entirely surprised. They will be aware that the way in which the security arrangements around this visit were made for Xi Jinping were a lot more vigorous and a lot more demanding than on previous visits.

"They'll have certainly received a significant pushback from the British side on that front."

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