China 'Relieved' Over Clinton Trip

Official media are relieved after a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while protesters describe a huge operation to prevent public protest.
2009-02-24
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Petitioners protest in Beijing during the visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Petitioners protest in Beijing during the visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
RFA

HONG KONGOfficial Chinese media expressed relief on Monday over warming Sino-U.S. ties as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned home after her visit to China.

Clinton's visit emphasized cooperation over pressuring Beijing on human rights, signaling further stability in bilateral relations, the official English-language China Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

Rights activists and people pursuing complaints against the government said security was tight throughout the trip, with police out in force to ensure that attempts to stage demonstrations or other protest activities were quickly suppressed.

"We got here at about 8 a.m.. A lot of people came here together," said petitioner Li Shufen, who traveled to Beijing's western district of Haidian, where Clinton attended a Protestant church Sunday.

"The police have cordoned off the whole area," Li said. "There was a Protestant woman surnamed Zhu who arrived here just after 8 o'clock. She had barely got off the bus when she was grabbed by police and taken away."

Witnesses said more than 60 police vans had been deployed outside the church.

Petitioners flock to church

"The police are asking us what we intend by being here. We are Christians, so we said we came here to attend the service. They said you can't attend the service. We are all Christians. We have our Bibles with us," Li added.

A policeman at the scene in Haidian told petitioner Zhu Guijin in a conversation audible by mobile telephone, "There is a foreign dignitary visiting who is attending the service in the church. It's Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State."

He added that the church was already full to capacity and that no more worshippers would be allowed in.

Meanwhile, at the Xiushui Street Market in the eastern diplomatic quarter of Beijing, a few dozen petitionersordinary Chinese citizens pursuing complaints against the governmentunfurled a banner which they said was to welcome Clinton.

"Fourteen years ago, she said that she cared a lot about human rights, that it was important to her," a petitioner at the scene said.

"So, seeing as she's visiting China today, we want to welcome her on behalf of the petitioners of the People's Republic of China. We have been waving little flags, applauding, and distributing fliers."

Activist 'removed'

Police were also ordered to make sure none of China's political activists or dissidents was able to use Clinton's visit to protest.

Activist Qi Zhiyong, who was disabled during the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, said he was escorted out of the capital while Clinton was there.

"They said they would take me away at about 2 p.m. and that we were going to leave Beijing. They said it was a security measure to protect Hillary Clinton during her trip to China, because I was a potential threat to her," Qi said.

"I said what kind of threat could I possibly pose to her? It's not as if I will get to meet her. They said all the security arrangements were being made by higher authorities."

Meanwhile, independent author and Charter 08 signatory Jiang Qisheng said he had been warned against trying to protest.

Charter 08 is a manifesto calling for expanded freedoms in China that was circulated and signed in December last year.

"The police came in the morning. There are officers and police cars parked there now. They told me not to try to see Hillary Clinton," Jiang said.

Paper reports 'relief'

"They said if I needed to go out for anything that they would take me in the police car."

Clinton sought repeatedly to reassure her hosts she wanted to spend her 40 hours in Beijing focusing on ways to work together, not debating differences.

The China Daily wrote after her visit ended: "Many had waited anxiously for the new administration's China overtures, wondering if the precious signs of stabilization in bilateral ties at the end of the Bush years could survive the new White House resident's ambitions for change."

"With Clinton in town highlighting common concerns, they finally received the much sought-after relief."

China's communist leaders gave a cautious welcome to U.S. President Barack Obama's election, fearing the Democratic leader would press them harder on human rights and trade issues than his predecessor.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long and in Cantonese by Lee Kin-kwan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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