Thousands of people gathered outside Manchester Town Hall to show their support for President Xi Jinping as he joined David Cameron, George Osborne, and other key figures from across Manchester for lunch today.
Amid the flurry of red flags and ‘I love China’ t-shirts, there were groups of protesters who had been positioned on the fringes of the event.
People’s Assembly campaigners criticised Cameron for flaunting Manchester as a ‘trophy city’, and objected to Osborne showing off the Northern Power House.
Laurence Elliott, 24, told MM: “There have been millions of pounds of cuts to Manchester City Council [and] he is doing nothing to help the impoverished or the poor, or any of the services in Manchester.”
‘TROPHY CITY’: The People’s Assembly criticised Prime Minister David Cameron for flaunting Manchester
He said of the nuclear power plant deal: “If we’re going to build industries, we need to build them in this country – it costs less money, it keeps people part of their communities when people are connected to their work.”
Kng, 25, Masters Student of Data Science, turned out to celebrate the President’s arrival after his Chinese parents instructed him to travel from Sheffield to see him in person.
When MM asked what he thought of the protesters, he said: “Actually, I don’t care because that’s their right.
“They have the right to say whatever they want to say, but I don’t think the majority of the people will consider them very important.”
‘OVERALL SUCCESS’: Supporters of President Xi’s visit felt the day was a success despite the protesters
Kng felt that the Presidential visit to England had been an overall success.
He said that if President Xi could ‘enjoy fish and chips’, he could enjoy England despite the weather.
However, another objector was appalled by the extravagance of the whole affair.
Steph Pike said: “For Cameron to host a vanity dinner that will cost thousands of pounds, for a President that has an appalling human rights record, is a gesture of contempt for the people of Manchester.
“This right-wing government claims that there is not enough money to fund a welfare state, yet there seems to be plenty of money to pay for this obscene and expensive dinner and state visit.”
THE FANFARE: While the opposition to the Chinese President’s visit was strong, they were outnumbered by supporters
People gave numerous reasons for objecting to the state visit, including the role of China in the recent closure of many British steelworks, nuclear contracts, and human rights abuses.
Sarah Radford told the People’s Assembly: “I’m struggling to understand why contracts for HS2 are being awarded to companies abroad when the domestic steel industry has been delivered the recent blow.”
Other protesters outside the Town Hall included Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts (MDPAC) and Falun Gong demonstrators, who sat in meditation over persecution, torture, and imprisonment by the former Chinese Communist Party.
‘SO SPECIAL’: Jim from Stockport waited two hours to see the President and described himself as ‘more China that Manchester’
Supporters still outnumbered protesters, however.
Jim, from Stockport, waited almost two hours to catch a glimpse of President Xi, and surrounded by the fanfare, he said he felt he was ‘more in China than Manchester’.
He said: “I understand why they are protesting – it is all part of the ongoing process and the dialogue between countries understanding each other.
“It takes time, but change will happen. In fact, it’s already happening; that’s why the Chinese President is here in Manchester.
“The occasion’s so special that if you get the chance to be part of it, you’ve got to.”