Thousands of students, tourists and members of the Chinese diaspora lined The Mall on 20 October to catch a glimpse of President Xi Jinping as the Chinese Communist Party leader travelled towards Buckingham Palace. The royal procession, which included the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, was greeted with cheers and applause by the spectators. But pro-Tibet and human rights activists chanted "shame" as Jinping passed them.
Amnesty International also held a quiet demonstration by the King George VI Memorial in St James' Park. Its protest was only disturbed when pro-China activists attempted to block out the demonstration with large Union Jacks and the Five Star flag of China.
"Our main concern is that our prime minister talks to the president of China about human rights and our worry is that it is not happening," Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, told IBTimes UK. "We want to make it clear to David Cameron that we expect human rights to be on agenda."
The comments come as the UK government seeks to strengthen its economic ties with the one-party-state and attempt to usher in what Chancellor George Osborne has dubbed a "golden era" of trade. Jinping is expected to attend a state banquet at Buckingham Palace on the evening of 20 October alongside the Queen, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour leader has promised to raise the issue of human rights in a private meeting with the Chinese premier, a move that may upset the Chinese leadership. But Chen Guangcheng, a civil rights activist who escaped house arrest and fled China in 2012, seemed to back Corbyn over the move.
"We should not just put our eyes on the money and business deals by neglecting the civilised world of principles," he told IBTimes UK. "So if those civil countries cannot trade with principle and basic values, then how can we trust this regime?"
Dr Shao Jiang, a survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was also critical of Cameron. "[The UK government] must criticise Chinese human rights violations in public...otherwise you damage your human rights standard and undermine democracy."
But Jinping, who completes his UK visit on 23 October, also had a lot of support in the London crowd. The Chinese premier was greeted with large welcome banners and one student praised Xi Jinping as a "good leader", while another said co-operation between Britain and China was "very important".