Queen Elizabeth II was not amused. Britain’s monarch has been caught on camera complaining about the rudeness of Chinese officials during preparations for last October’s much-vaunted state visit by President Xi Jinping.
The queen was filmed talking to Metropolitan Police Commander Lucy D’Orsi at her first garden party of the year in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.
D’Orsi was introduced to the queen as “gold commander,” in charge of security and emergency services during Xi’s visit.
“Oh, bad luck,” the queen said.
D’Orsi went on to complain about how the visit had been a “quite a testing time” for her. She recalled how Chinese officials had walked out a meeting with her and British Ambassador Barbara Woodward, telling them “the trip was off.”
“They were very rude to the ambassador,” the queen said, also referring to the incident as “extraordinary.”
D’Orsi added: “It was very rude and very undiplomatic, I thought.”
Britain’s Conservative Government has invested heavily in what is hopes will be a “golden era” in relations with China, but the new relationship is turning into an embarrassment in many people’s eyes.
President Xi was granted a faultless British display of pomp and ceremony during his state visit, invited to address parliament and inspect a guard of honor on Horse Guards Parade, while also being treated to a state banquet hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace.
But the British government has been criticized at home for “kowtowing” to the Chinese and failing to bring up the issue of the Communist Party’s record on human rights. The “golden era” also had a rocky start after a British citizen was among five Hong Kong booksellers allegedly abducted by Chinese security agents.
Chinese officials are known in diplomatic circles for playing hardball with their demands during preparations for important visits, but this is the first indication that Her Majesty was unhappy with arrangements.
According to the BBC, a Buckingham Palace spokesman later said: “We do not comment on the queen’s private conversations. However, the Chinese state visit was extremely successful and all parties worked closely to ensure it proceeded smoothly.”
In China, coverage of the controversy has been censored, with BBC World TV blanked out during a report on the conversation, the British broadcaster reported.
During the visit, the queen had called it a “milestone,” and said relations were being taken to “ambitious” new heights.
BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt commented: “Blunt talking, in public, is normally the preserve of the queen’s husband.”
In the 80s, Hunt recalled, Prince Philip had warned some British students in China that they’d get “slitty eyes” if they stayed there too long, while Prince Charles described some Chinese officials in a leaked journal as “appalling old waxworks.”