France's Royal mocked over her China visit

8th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 8, 2007 (AFP) - The Socialist pretender to the French presidency Segolene Royal came under mocking abuse over her current visit to China, which her political enemies described as a meaningless vacation.

PARIS, Jan 8, 2007 (AFP) - The Socialist pretender to the French presidency Segolene Royal came under mocking abuse over her current visit to China, which her political enemies described as a meaningless vacation.

"It is a totally pointless trip, except perhaps for the guidebooks. Once again we are sorry to see Madame Royal limiting herself to photo-calls and imagery," said Luc Chatel, spokesman for the ruling centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

On Sunday Patrick Devedjian -- a senior adviser to the UMP's leader and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy -- also described Royal's three-day visit as a "holiday" and a "humiliation".

"For my country and the image of my country, I find that the upshot of this trip -- by someone who after all has a chance of being our next president -- a trip that is so discreet and non-political, even if it's been heavily promoted by the media ... I find it a bit of a humiliation," he said.

Credited with an even chance of becoming French president after elections in April, Royal, 53, is using her visit to China to establish her credibility on the international stage, which opponents see as her major weak spot.

A trip to the Middle East late last year provoked accusations of diplomatic naivete when she appeared to endorse violently anti-Israeli comments by the head of Lebanon's Hezbollah.

The socialist hopeful spent most of the weekend sightseeing in Beijing and at the Great Wall, but on Monday held meetings with Chinese leaders including vice-president Zeng Qinghong.

However a hoped-for meeting with President Hu Jintao was not arranged, largely because in terms of protocol Royal has rank neither in the French government nor within the opposition Socialist party. By contrast Sarkozy, who visited China in 2004, was personally received by the president.

Critics also rounded on Royal for side-stepping the issue of human rights,

with Francois Bayrou -- head of the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) -- accusing her of an "attitude of submission."

"I would have liked her to bring up the question of human rights. But she has done it with so much circumlocution and delicacy that it was obviously meant not to cause offence," he said.

Royal has used pointedly careful language on her trip to China, speaking of "human rights", which in French is a vaguer term than the usual expression "rights of man", and linking the issue to other questions such as the environment, globalisation and social progress.

On a lighter note, Royal was being teased by opponents after coining a new word -- "bravitude" -- in comments to the press at the Great Wall on Saturday.

Quoting Mao Ze-Dong's remark that "he who has not climbed the Great Wall is not 'brave'," she added that to climb it meant acquiring "bravitude" -- instead of the more normal French word "bravoure."

Socialist party officials leapt to her defence, with spokesman Julien Dray saying "it was not a mistake", and former minister Jack Lang adding "would have liked to have invented the word myself."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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