Trump Leaves China Amid Concern Over Lack of Human Rights Support

Many dissidents remain under round-the-clock guard, while commentators speak of 'tacit agreements' between the two presidents.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a business leaders' meeting in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017.

As President Donald Trump headed to an economic summit in Vietnam at the end of his state visit to China on Friday, dissidents and rights activists said tight surveillance and security controls during his trip had yet to be lifted.

A survivor of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre said he is still under 24-hour police guard, in spite of being on a dialysis machine for some of the time.

"They haven't gone yet, though it may be their last shift, maybe finishing at 5.00 p.m.," Qi Zhiyong, a member of the Tiananmen Mothers victims group, told RFA after Trump's departure.

"All dissidents in Beijing are being watched round the clock in three shifts, some by the state security police, and others by a local police car [outside their homes]," Qi said.

He said veteran activists Zha Jianguo and Gao Hongming had been kept under guard along with many others.

Beijing resident Xu Chongyang said security measures seemed to be much tighter in China than when President Xi Jinping last visited the United States.

"The two governments have very different ways of dealing with this. For example, they don't put the local population to so much inconvenience when Chinese leaders visit the U.S.," he said.

"They don't limit the freedom of movement of their people in the same way."

Beijing residents were subjected to road closures and traffic jams near the diplomatic quarter for the duration of Trump's three-day visit.

'All about business'

Ordinary Chinese people pursuing complaints about the ruling Chinese Communist Party, called petitioners, have often sought to speak directly to visiting foreign officials about grievances that have met with no redress.

One Beijing petitioner said Trump's visit appeared to have been all about business.

"I didn't see Trump trying to apply pressure with any of his opinions during this trip," the petitioner said. "Trump is a businessman, first and foremost, so he's going to be more focused on profit."

Chinese constitutional scholar Zhang Lifan agreed, saying Trump had maintained a conciliatory tone on this visit.

"It appears that the two sides may have reached some kind of tacit agreement, judging from the recent meeting between Trump and Xi," he said.

Indeed, official Chinese media hailed the visit as a success, saying it had set out a "roadmap" for future ties between the two nations.

"The Beijing visit was a remarkable moment in the history of China-U.S. relations," state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary article on Friday, adding that "the trip showcased positive interaction between the world's top two economies."

Behind the scenes

Su Hao, international relations professor at China's Diplomatic Institute, said that surface agreements such as the U.S.$250 billion worth of economic cooperation agreements signed during the visit don't mean that bilateral tensions have been resolved.

They may just be being negotiated behind the scenes, he said.

"The stronger momentum of cooperation that we are seeing between China and the United States can lessen, or cover up, the differences and conflicts existing between the two sides," Su said.

"Coordination and cooperation are now the main theme, while the differences have been relegated to a secondary status," he said. "But a lot of this is about tacit agreements, too."

"[One of those has to be] that North Korea's ... nuclear missile development must be curbed, and that it must never be allowed to get to the point where it attacks the United States," he said.

"But they would never publicly discuss any joint measures they plan to take over  North Korea, because it's too sensitive," Su added.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.