The First Minister of Scotland and one of the UK's top female left-wingers will not be attending the Buckingham Palace banquet held for China's President Xi Jinping. Nicola Sturgeon has got "existing commitments" that will keep her from the royal bash held in honour of the Communist Party leader.
The move comes after Sturgeon visited the one-party-state in July and again in August on a trade mission. The SNP leader revealed that 10 Scottish firms had secured deals with Chinese firms worth as much as £55 million ($85m, €75m) over the course of three years.
"Scotland values its strong relationship with China – the First Minister had a successful visit to China in July, and external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop recently attended the UK China high level people to people dialogue in September where the Chinese side was led by vice premier Madame Liu Yandong," a spokesperson for the Scottish government said.
Xi Jinping is set to dine with the Queen, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn on the evening of 20 October. The UK government has sought to strengthen its economic ties with the East Asian nation and the Chancellor George Osborne led a delegation to China in September, where he championed a "golden era" of trade between the countries.
But the prospect of a closer relationship with China has pushed human rights activists into action. Amnesty International, pro-Tibet and Chinese dissidents plan to protest close to The Mall as Xi Jinping makes his way to Buckingham Palace. Corbyn is also expected to intervene on China's human rights issues.
A spokesman for the Labour leader told IBTimes UK that the veteran campaigner still plans to raise the country's poor human rights record with Xi Jinping in a private meeting. Elsewhere, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Tibet held a "stateless banquet" to protest the Chinese premier's trip.
Labour MP Fabain Hamilton told IBTimes UK that Xi Jinping's visit left a "bitter taste" in his mouth, "especially when you know what the Chinese leadership is doing to many of its own people simply for daring to speak out against the regime". He added: "It's quite shocking in a way that we aren't being rather more critical. We should uphold the values of this country, which this country was built upon."