Protests against 'Tibet independence' erupt in cities

Updated: 2008-04-19 16:40

BEIJING -- Protests against "Tibet independence" supporters in some western countries erupted in a few Chinese cities on Saturday.

The protests were seen in Beijing, the eastern cities of Hefei and Qingdao, the central city of Wuhan, the southwestern city of Kunming and the northwestern city of Xi'an.

Protesters gathered in front of shops of the French supermarket Carrefour in the cities, chanting slogans of "boycott Carrefour", "oppose Tibet independence" and others.
They also handed out leaflets to passengers.

A dozen of young people on Saturday morning held a protest march in front of the French Embassy and the Beijing French School in the Chinese capital, which lasted less than half an hour.

Pan Yuming, an engineer and one of the protesters in Kunming, said they wanted to express their anger at western support for "Tibet independence" and did not want to cause social disturbance.

Many participants in Kunming persuaded elders and kids to leave the crowd and maintained order during the protest.

A shareholder of Carrefour was accused by Chinese Internet users of supporting the Dalai clique, which Carrefour China denied in a statement released on Wednesday.

Zhang Junsheng, director of the WTO research institute of the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics, said the protests were a spontaneous move by Chinese nationals to express their attitude toward "Tibet independence."

However, Zhang said China's economic ties with foreign countries were getting closer and the country would not shut its door to the international community.

Ren Gang, a customer at a Carrefour store in Beijing, said on Saturday that he understood the protests but he personally believed it was improper to boycott Carrefour.

"We need to separate economic activities from politics," Ren said.

Employees at Carrefour stores in Beijing said the number of customers dropped drastically.

"We used to be in bustle at weekend, but now we are waiting for customers," said a cashier, who refused to be named, in the store at Zhongguancun, Beijing.

Online and text messages began to call for boycotts of Carrefour and other foreign retailers to protest western supports to "Tibet independence" secessionists after the disruptions of the Olympic torch relay in Paris and other foreign cities.

The calls attempted to mobilize Chinese citizens to boycott purchases in chain stores of Carrefour and Louis Vuitton, a French luxury brand, and Body shop, a cosmetics retailer belonging to L'Oreal SA.

French retailer giant Carrefour has opened 109 supermarkets in China by the end of last year since it entered the Chinese market in 1995.

Chinese torch bearer Jin Jing, a wheelchair-bound fencer, held the torch tightly from her wheelchair while a few mobs tried to snatch it away in Paris on April 7. She had to bend her body to protect the torch, but the mobs did not stop in their attempt, leaving her bruised and scratched on her chin and right leg.

French ambassador to China Herve Ladsous told Chinese media on Friday that he felt "regretful" for the disruptions of the Olympic torch relay in Paris, and hoped to meet Jin Jing.

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