LONDON (REUTERS) - Prince William will go to China early next year in the first visit to the mainland by a member of the British royal family in almost three decades, Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday.
William, Queen Elizabeth's grandson and second-in-line to the throne, will leave for a three-day trip to Japan in late February before heading to China.
However, he will not be accompanied by his pregnant wife Kate who is due to give birth to the couple's second child in April.
William's trip to China is the first since the queen and her husband Prince Philip paid a visit in 1986, and comes amid continuing protests by pro-democracy activists in the former British colony of Hong Kong.
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.
Buckingham Palace said William would officially open the GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai, an event which aims to give more than 500 British businesses a chance to reach potential Chinese partners.
"The Duke will also undertake engagements in Beijing and elsewhere to promote UK-China relations, people-to-people links, and in support of his work to combat the illegal wildlife trade and support wildlife conservation," the palace said in a statement.