Paris fetes China with New Year parade

26th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 24 (AFP) - France feted China with a lavish Chinese New Year parade in Paris Saturday, two days before a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, while protesters called on Beijing to respect human rights.

PARIS, Jan 24 (AFP) - France feted China with a lavish Chinese New Year parade in Paris Saturday, two days before a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, while protesters called on Beijing to respect human rights.

The two countries are marking 40 years of diplomatic relations and both are hoping to strengthen commercial ties as well.

In a sweeping gesture, the French government staged the parade on the Champs-Elysees, the capital's most celebrated avenue. Organizers said it was the first time it had been used for a major non-French cultural event.

Topping the tribute was the Eiffel Tower, which is to be illuminated in red for five nights.

Even drizzly gray skies turned blue on cue for the exceptional event.

A procession of 7,500 costumed participants, 54 floats, legions of dancing dragons, red lanterns, jumbo balloons and banging gongs took three hours to file down the 1.2-kilometer (half-mile) parade route.

Huge French and Chinese flags flew side by side along the route, where spectators strained to catch a glimpse of the parade.

The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, and his visiting Beijing counterpart, Wang Qishan, gave the signal to start the parade.

A delegation from Beijing - four magnificent floats led by a giant lucky goldfish and 800 artists, dancers, acrobats and jugglers - led the parade.

Behind them followed the marchers and floats of the 45 Chinese associations in France that co-sponsored the event.

A crowd of 200,000, according to police, double that according to organizers, gathered to usher in the Year of the Monkey, which officially began on Thursday.

The parade, as well as the crimson Eiffel Tower, is part of "crossed years" of cultural events sponsored by France and China. France, which became the first major western country to forge diplomatic ties with China, in 1944, is celebrating a "Year of China in France" from October 2003 to June 2004. China's "Year of France in China" will take place during the same period, a year later.

Saturday's extravaganza was the climax of a France-China cultural week of concerts, dance and exhibitions.

In another part of Paris Saturday, activists held a public protest near the Pompidou arts museum to express dismay that issues such as Tibet - occupied by China since 1951 -, human rights and capital punishment had been left off the agenda of President Hu's state visit.

China has been accused of persecuting and evicting Tibetans, destroying the environment in their Himalayan homeland and encouraging large-scale migration of ethnic Han Chinese into Tibet.

"I hope it will not be forgotten that many Chinese do not enjoy human rights," said a member of the French chapter of the Chinese democratic party, who gave his name as Jiang.

He added that he hoped French President Jacques Chirac would "not discuss trade, but human rights" with Hu.

In response to the concerns of rights activists, the mayor of Paris said he had discussed "human rights and freedoms" during a working lunch with his Chinese counterpart Wang.

"We talked in a frank and friendly manner. He listened well and told me that things can change. We must influence one another," Delanoe told AFP.

Organized by the cities of Paris and Beijing and 45 Chinese associations in France, the parade cost EUR 480,000 (USD 603,800), of which the French capital provided EUR 210,000.

© AFP

                                Subject: France news

0 Comments To This Article