China insists France, EU at fault over row
Beijing urges Chinese citizens who are calling for an anti-France boycott to remain calm and maintains it is up to France and the EU to resolve dispute over Sarkozy’s plans to meet Dalai Lama.
3 December 2008
BEIJING – Beijing on Tuesday urged Chinese consumers to remain calm amid Internet calls for an anti-France boycott, but insisted the French government was at fault in an escalating diplomatic row over Tibet.
A foreign ministry spokesman reiterated China's position that it was up to France and the European Union to end the dispute that has erupted over plans by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to meet with the Dalai Lama on Saturday.
The dispute had resulted in Beijing taking the unprecedented step of postponing a China-EU summit scheduled for this week. France currently occupies the rotating EU presidency.
"I believe at present that China-EU relations, especially with the postponement of the China-EU leaders meeting, have been affected," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters.
"It is because the French leader is bent on meeting the Dalai Lama, disregarding China's wishes."
For many years, China has opposed foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama, who it maintains is trying to win independence for his Himalayan homeland that has been under Chinese rule since 1951.
Asked to comment on online calls for a French boycott, Liu urged restraint without actually condemning such action.
"We hope our citizens in China will take a calm attitude in viewing China-France relations," he said.
Some Chinese blogs have filled recently with anti-French comments.
A forum on the government-run China.com website posted a petition condemning Sarkozy drew more than 82,000 online "signatures" as of Monday.
On the popular portal Huanqiu.com, a forum was filled anti-French comments Tuesday.
"Support China forever and boycott French goods! Those who shop at Carrefour are lackeys!" said one entry.
Earlier this year, Chinese protesters had targeted French businesses such as retail giant Carrefour. Those protests were sparked by Sarkozy saying his attendance at the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony was conditional on progress in long-stalled talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's envoys on the future of Tibet.
There was also anger in China about protests that disrupted the international Olympic torch relay in Paris and several other cities over a Chinese military crackdown on unrest in Tibet.
China's communist rulers normally stamp out public protests and online dissent it does not like, but allowed the anti-French sentiments early this year to continue for weeks.
[AFP / Expatica]