Chinese president welcomed by Swedish royals

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the Royal Palace in Stockholm on Saturday morning, kicking off the first ever Chinese state visit to Sweden.

The Asian leader and his delegation arrived in a horse-drawn carriage in blazing sunshine and was welcomed by King Carl XVI Gustaf. Together they inspected the guard of honour and listened while the Swedish national anthem was played by the army’s music corps.

Queen Silvia and the wife of the Chinese president attracted most of the attention of the press photographers. In the collected media were around 20 Chinese journalists who are covering the state visit.

President Hu Jintao’s programme includes meetings with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and the speaker of parliament on Sunday.

Sweden is a vehement critic of China’s human rights record, and both Bildt and Reinfeldt have indicated they will raise the subject during their talks.

Trade and climate issues are also expected to be on the agenda.

Hu will also meet representatives of the Swedish business community.

The Chinese leader will also participate in ceremonies welcoming the return of the East Indiaman Goetheborg, a replica of the Swedish 18th century merchant ship that sank in Sweden 1745.

The replica has retraced the original ship’s route to China and back.

Several protests are planned during Hu’s visit.

Amnesty International was due to hold a demonstration in Gothenburg on Saturday to protest against China’s death penalty record and restrictions on freedom of expression.

The spiritual group Falungong was also planning a demonstration in Stockholm. They have alleged that China’s military is harvesting organs from prison inmates, mostly Falungong practitioners, for transplants.

China banned the spiritual group in 1999, accusing Falungong of spreading rumours in a bid to undermine “social stability” and Beijing’s international relations.