The disruptions to the Olympic torch relay in Paris have hurt the feelings of Chinese people, President Hu Jintao said Thursday while urging France to squarely face up to problems that have cropped up recently in bilateral relations.
The president asked the French government to work with China to handle disagreements.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) meets with visiting French Senate President Christian Poncelet (L) in Beijing, April 24, 2008. [Xinhua]
Hu made the remarks in a meeting with French Senate President Christian Poncelet, who is on a week-long visit to China.
Hu said a series of events that were "unfriendly to the Chinese people" occurred in France recently, such as the attacks on the Olympic torch relay in Paris.
"These events are not what we want to see, and have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people," Hu said, adding that China values Sino-French relations.
Poncelet said he felt sad and regretful for the disruption to the torch relay in Paris, and again expressed sincere sympathy of the French government to the disabled Chinese torchbearer Jin Jing, who was attacked by Tibetan separatists.
He said France fully understands and respects Chinese people's feelings, opposes the mixing of sport with politics, and expressed his best wishes and support to the Beijing Olympics.
He visited Jin Jing soon after his arrival in Shanghai on Monday, and handed over French President Nicolas Sarkozy's letter of sympathy to the wheelchair-bound fencer.
Poncelet told reporters after meeting Hu that he is optimistic the two countries will overcome the current difficult situation through consultation and dialogue.
Reiterating the French government position that Tibet and Taiwan are inalienable parts of China, Poncelet said the development of friendship with China is the common aspiration of the French government and people.
In another development, former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a special envoy of Sarkozy, met Hu yesterday.
Raffarin told reporters he handed Hu a letter from Sarkozy and a biography of Charles de Gaulle as a gift.
Raffarin also met Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday and expressed the wish that the European and French public learn more about the true Tibet.
He said the disruption to the Olympic torch relay in Paris violated the Olympic spirit and said he was sad about it.
Raffarin visited Beijing as prime minister in the spring of 2003 despite fears of SARS which was raging in the Chinese capital, earning plaudits from the public.
The visits by Raffarin and Poncelet coincide with tensions in relations caused by the torch relay disruption and the French media's biased coverage of China following the riots in Tibet.
To ease the diplomatic tension, three top French envoys are in Beijing this week for talks. Besides Poncelet and Raffarin, Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's chief diplomatic adviser, will fly to Beijing tomorrow.
Chinese analysts said the flurry of visits by senior French officials signal Sarkozy's determination to bring bilateral relations back on track.
"Sarkozy's letter to Jin Jing has helped soothe the anger of many Chinese," said Zhao Junjie, a researcher of European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "But how he deals with the discord at home will be a real test of his leadership."