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William to visit China next year

The Duke of Cambridge is pay a visit to China next year, sources have said.

William will travel to the republic early in 2015, but the Duchess of Cambridge, who will be heavily pregnant, is thought unlikely to accompany him.

The Duke's father the Prince of Wales - a supporter of the Dalai Lama - has never been to mainland China - only to Hong Kong for the handover ceremony in 1997.

William's trip will put a spotlight on his father's uneasy relationship with China and raise questions about why Charles has yet to make an official visit to the republic.

A high profile tour by William will be viewed as an attempt to improve diplomatic relations with the country.

Heir to the throne Charles's dealings with China have been troubled in the past, particularly after he described China's leaders as ''appalling old waxworks'' in a leaked diary.

In 1999, he was accused of boycotting a Chinese state visit to the UK by failing to attend the return banquet held for the then-president Jiang Zemin.

During then president Hu Jintao's state visit in 2005, Charles carefully side-stepped the issue by being out of the country on a tour of the US on the night of the official dinner.

He did not meet Mr Hu on the remaining two days of his visit.

In 2009, Charles held his first ever private meeting with a Chinese president in the UK.

He held talks with Mr Hu at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London, and broached the delicate issue of Tibet.

Charles is a long time admirer of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama - who is seen by China as a separatist threat.

In 2009, the Prince opened The Prince's Charities Foundation (China) in Beijing - his first charity to be based in China - a step seen as a thawing of his relationship with the nation.

The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment also worked with Chinese planning authorities and a university on a restoration project.

Campaigners continue to criticise the country for executing hundreds of people every year and for failing to stop torture.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh toured China in 1986, but Philip was overheard describing Beijing as "ghastly" and told British exchange students: "If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty-eyed."


From Belfast Telegraph