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Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit: Jeremy Corbyn raises human rights and steel trade with China's leader

By Laura Elston and Joe Churcher

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has raised China's human rights record and the impact of its exports on the UK steel industry in direct talks with the country's president.

Mr Corbyn held what the party described as "cordial and constructive" discussions with Xi Jinping at Buckingham Palace, where he is attending a royal banquet in the president's honour.

It had been suggested that he would use the formal function to raise the contentious issues if no private meeting could be arranged.

The pair met in the 1844 Room - the same grand room where the Duke of Cambridge earlier called on the Chinese leader.

As he entered the room via the adjoining Bow Room, Mr Corbyn was announced loudly by a page as "The Leader of the Opposition".

The pair shook hands cordially with Mr Corbyn placing his other hand on top and telling Mr Xi: "It's very nice to meet you. I look forward to our meeting."

Mr Corbyn introduced his small delegation to the Communist leader including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn and shadow business secretary Angela Eagle, who also shook hands with Mr Xi.

The Labour leader and the president took their seats in identical chairs as Mr Xi began speaking at length through an interpreter telling Mr Corbyn: "It is indeed a great pleasure to meet you".

He expressed his congratulations to Mr Corbyn on his election as Labour leader and said "We stand ready to work together with Britain" on financial matters and on friendship.

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Some nine Chinese officials had already taken their places their room before the press were ushered out of the 30 minute meeting.

The Labour MP, who is later attending the state banquet where the dress code is white tie and tails, was for this meeting, dressed in a white striped shirt, burgundy tie and fawn jacket.

A Labour spokesman said the subjects discussed included "the history of links between the UK, the Labour Party and China, in particular the huge contribution and sacrifice of the Chinese people in the struggle against fascism during the Second World War and the Labour Party's commitment to build constructively on that history".

They also touched on "the remarkable Chinese achievements in poverty reduction, lifting over 600 million people out of poverty and the lessons for the world agenda on human development", the "New Silk Road strategy", major threats to world security such as climate change, persistent economic inequality and international terrorism and "upgrading cultural and people-to people exchanges between China and the UK".

The statement continued: "Jeremy also raised the issues of human rights and the impact of Chinese imports on the UK steel industry. It was agreed there should be further discussion of co-operation on climate change and cultural exchanges and these issues at a meeting between him, shadow cabinet colleagues and Vice Minister Wang Chao later in the week."

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