Anti-Europe protests in China must remain peaceful
European Commission says that points of view can be expressed but have to remain peaceful.22 April 2008
BRUSSELS - Anti-French and anti-Western demonstrations in China must remain peaceful, the European Commission said Monday, following a weekend of protests there targeting US broadcaster CNN and French store Carrefour.
"All points of view can be expressed but of course all of this has to remain very peaceful," Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger told reporters in Brussels.
Over the weekend, thousands of protesters demonstrated outside many of the French retail giant Carrefour's 122 branches nationwide. Shopping centres in the eastern cities of Qingdao and Hefei and central China's Wuhan were forced to close down on Saturday.
Despite an impressive police presence, demonstrations continued Sunday with protesters chanting slogans and holding banners against Tibetan independence, urging a boycott of Carrefour and railing against the news network CNN, whose commentator last week made disparaging remarks about China.
Anti-French feeling was fanned by Paris's chaotic leg of the Olympic torch relay ahead of the Beijing summer Games.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent his personal support on Monday to a wheelchair-bound Chinese athlete who was forced to shield the torch from pro-Tibet protesters during the chaotic Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay.
However at the same time Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe said the French capital was set to award the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader with honorary citizenship.
The issue of human rights and Tibet will be discussed when European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso visits Beijing on Thursday and Friday, Laitenberger said.
Barroso will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao among others and "in the context of the very frank and open dialogue that the commission or Europe have always maintained with China" the EU delegation will raise "matters concerning human rights and freedom of expression and obviously recent events in Tibet provide us with yet another reason to talk about these things," said Laitenberger.
Another European Commission spokesman told AFP that the commission was happy that China had issued calls for calm following the anti-French protests.
However the official Chinese press has in recent days launched appeals for a show of patriotism while the authorities have allowed large protests, normally banned in China.
The Chinese protests followed noisy anti-China demonstrations in London, Paris and San Francisco that have marred the international Beijing Olympic torch relay, an event aimed at promoting this year's Games.
Anti-China demonstrations have grown internationally since Beijing began quelling unrest in Tibet last month, when peaceful protests turned into riots and spread through neighbouring Tibetan-populated areas.
[AFP / ANP / Expatica]