The Duke of Cambridge Prince William had a brief tour of the Forbidden City in China on 2 March as he began the first visit to the mainland by a member of the British royal family in almost three decades.

William and his entourage were seen entering the Hall of Supreme Harmony accompanied by officials of the Forbidden City museum.

William's trip to China is the first since the queen and her husband Prince Philip paid a visit in 1986, and comes as London and Beijing have spared over last year's pro-democracy demonstrations in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

William, Queen Elizabeth's grandson and second-in-line to the throne, visits commercial hub Shanghai and then an elephant sanctuary in south-western China.

Perhaps trying to make a good impression ahead of the trip, the government last week announced a one-year ban on the import of African ivory carvings.

However, William is not being accompanied by his pregnant wife Kate who is due to give birth to the couple's second child in April.

His father Prince Charles was among dignitaries at the handover of the colony to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gave it some autonomy from the mainland and an undated promise of universal suffrage.

Earlier on Monday, William visited a courtyard museum in downtown Beijing and met with charities supporting vulnerable young Chinese people.

He is also scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and have lunch with vice President Li Yuanchao before flying to Shanghai later in the day.