French media reports slap Paris in the face
By Tao Duanfang
Updated: 2008-04-12 07:39

Some French media seemed quite excited about what happened during the Olympic torch relay in Paris a few days ago. Le Figaro ran a headline story entitled "The torch's fiasco in Paris", while the top story in La Libration read "Give China a slap in the face", describing the "fiasco" with a palpable sense of schadenfreude. Hysterical excitement is reflected in their descriptions.

We Chinese people just want to ask: Are these French newspapers the same papers once known for being serious and objective? Is this still the country called France that advocates civic virtues and respects other people?

It is true that the 2008 summer Olympics will be held in Beijing and China's 1.3 billion people are the host. But the torch relay is for the glory of the world, not only China's. All Chinese people, and perhaps those in other countries who cherish the Olympic spirit of peace and unity, cannot accept what happened in Paris. When the flame reached Paris, the governments of Paris and France were expected to protect it.

The Paris Municipal Council and the French Olympic Committee organized the Paris relay, so it is not exactly clear why major French newspapers would seem to take such pride in the so-called "fiasco", rather than feeling ashamed.

Some French media players claimed Paris is a free city and everyone has the right to assemble and demonstrate without government intervention. However, the actions by some extremists, who attacked the torchbearers, grabbed the torch and even tried to extinguish the flame, can no longer be called legal or non-violent protests. The people of China were seriously disturbed and hurt by the chaotic scene that ensued when an extremist tried to grab the torch from a disabled Chinese girl named Jing Jin. Is this what the French government would consider civil behavior? Was this a slap in China's face, or France's?

Liberty consists of the freedom to do anything one feels so long as no one else is injured, or at least according to France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

We Chinese translate France into "fa guo", which literally means a country that honors the rule of law. The translation itself shows China's respect for that country. However, from the joy reflected in those headlines, the editors, reporters and lawmakers who have been educated within French civilization suddenly seem to have lost the ability to tell right from wrong, choosing instead to side with the law-breakers and the criminals.

Without doubt, the French should have known that taking part in the torch relay means accepting the responsibility to spread the lofty Olympic spirit. During the relay, many overseas Chinese living in France welcomed, protected and shouted support for the torch. It was their sacred right to show their feelings about the issue.

However, some French media engaged in an astonishing attempt at censorship by ignoring the Chinese voices. Apparently, some of these editors and reporters have lost their way, seeing just the "right" of the Tibetan extremists to make trouble and attack the Olympic torch, and totally forgot about the right of the others to spread the Olympic spirit.

Sir Pierre De Couberti, founder of the modern Olympics, would be furious if he knew what his compatriots had done.

As an ancient country, France has made great contributions to the world. In fact, the Chinese people respect France a lot. France is usually the first country that comes to Chinese people's minds when talking about European countries. However, if French media players think they are privileged and have the right to point their dirty fingers at China, they are making a big mistake. Pride and prejudice have obscured their judgment and cast a shadow on this ancient civilization.

The author is a columnist in Canada

(China Daily 04/12/2008 page4)