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20 things on Beijing & President Xi Jinping... From films to human rights.


THE President of China's state visit begins today - the first time a Chinese leader has been to Britain in 10 years.

While he will be feted by the Prime Minister and hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, the four-day trip has been condemned by human rights activists.

So who is President Xi Jinping? Here are 20 facts about the man and the country over which he rules 1 Born in Beijing in 1953, as the son of revolutionary general Xi Zhongxun, a comrade of Chairman Mao, he led the privileged childhood of a so-called Red Princeling.

When his father was forced out of the post of vice premier in 1962 and imprisoned in a Communist Party purge, 15-year-old Xi ended up working as a farm labourer and living in a cave.

In 2003, he wrote: "With that kind of experience, whatever difficulties I would encounter in the future, I am fully charged with courage to take on any challenge, to believe in the impossible and to conquer obstacles without panic."

2 Xi was rejected by the Communist Party nine times because of his father but was finally accepted in 1974. The following year he studied at Tsinghua University and later gained a PhD in law, making him China's first leader to have a PhD.

3 He has been married twice. His first wife Ke Lingling, daughter of a former ambassador to Britain, left him in 1982 after three years of marriage. She moved to Britain and has since claimed the split was partly caused by her former husband's ambition.

4 He met his second and current wife Peng Liyuan in 1986. She is a famous singer in China and was the more well known of the two. And she has since revealed she initially wasn't interested. Peng said: "I found his dress was outmoded and severely plain." But the rising star of the Communist Party won her round.

5 Xi and Peng were married in 1987 in a ceremony so secret that only top party officials knew about the union for years.

6 Peng, who also holds the rank of army general, gave birth to their daughter Xi Mingze in 1992. Xi missed the birth to deal with the aftermath of a typhoon.

7 When Xi became vice president in 2008, Peng was forced to keep a lower profile as her husband was groomed for the top job. She has been hailed as a fashion icon in contrast to the previously less glamorous leaders' wives and has inspired many Chinese women to copy her look.

8 In China, his nickname is Xi Dada or Big Daddy Xi because he is seen as a tough but loving father figure. It is said he has an older sister living in Canada and his daughter has enrolled at Harvard under an alias.

9 He has cracked down on corruption, with more than 200,000 officials rounded up. In 2013, he said it was just as important to go after lowly people or "flies" as it was top officials or "tigers". And in 2009 he was lauded for his hardline defence of China against criticism from abroad. He said: "There are a few foreigners, with full bellies, who have nothing better to do than try to point fingers at our country. China does not export revolution, hunger, poverty, nor does China cause you any headaches. Just what else do you want?" 10Human rights abuses are said to be at their worst in a quarter of a century, according to the Chinese rights group Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch. The group's founder Liu Feiyue said: "The stability maintenance regime is getting stricter and stricter; you could say it's getting more and more brutal, more and more inhuman." The group claims it found measures, including phone tapping, house arrest, enforced "holidays" and criminal detention, occurred on 2,270 occasions during the last year.

11The organisation China Human Rights Defenders has found more than 1,800 cases of arbitrary detention and torture of human rights activists and lawyers since Xi succeeded Hu Jintao as general secretary of the Communist Party of China in 2012 and as President in 2013. This year, 245 lawyers have been targeted as part of a campaign to silence criticism, says Amnesty UK. The group says many remain "missing" or in custody.

12Torture methods in China range from starvation, freezing, electric shock, sleep deprivation and even spraying chilli oil, according to Human Rights Watch. Last year lawyers who were investigating a Legal Education Centre in Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang province, were detained and tortured. One of them, Tang Jitian, said he was strapped to an iron chair, slapped in the face, kicked, and hit so hard over the head with a plastic bottle filled with water that he passed out. He said he was later hooded and handcuffed behind his back and suspended by his wrists, while police beat him.

13The name Big Daddy Xi is also fitting, because at 5ft 11in, he is the tallest leader since Mao.

14So extensive are the restrictions on the internet, they've been called The Great Firewall of China. It is Chinese policy to detain and imprison activists whose internet postings are viewed more than 5,000 times or re-posted more than 500 times, according to Reporters Without Borders.

15Just like David Cameron, Xi likes to chillax by keeping in shape. He has said: "I like sports, and swimming is my favourite. Doing physical exercises keeps one fit and healthy, and helps one work more efficiently. I think we all need to strike a balance between work and relaxation."

16As a party official in 1985, Xi visited farms in Iowa in the US on a trip to learn more about American agriculture. While there, he stayed with Eleanor and Thomas Dvorchak in their family home. And, as China's vice president, he returned in 2012. Eleanor said: "No one in their right mind would ever think that the guy who stayed in my house would become the President. I don't care what country you're talking about."

17This may be his first state visit but Xi probably knows more about the UK than we thought. His niece, Hui Ng, is married to British entrepreneur Daniel Foa and they have a child together in China.

18After eating a lunch at a roadside restaurant in China's capital, he made the "Chairman Xi Set Meal" a bestseller. A travel company has even made the restaurant a stop on its tour of Beijing.

19He is a fan of Hollywood movies. Some of his favourites include Saving Private Ryan and The Godfather.

20Chinese writer and professor Liu Xiaobo was jailed in 2008 for circulating a petition calling for greater democratic rights in China and the end of the one-party system. In 2010, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning work but only halfway through his 11-year sentence he has been unable to collect his award.


TOP VIEWING Xi likes The Godfather

WE'RE HERE At Heathrow last night

power couple Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan with a wombat
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 20, 2015
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