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Attack on Chinese in France sparks fears

By Li Xiang | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-17 08:03

A violent attack on six Chinese students in southwestern France has provoked widespread outrage and safety concerns in China as well as the Chinese community in France.

The attack took place on Friday night in Hostens, a town located in the wine-producing region of Bordeaux, just a few hours before the opening of Vinexpo, an international wine and spirits fair that many Chinese professionals are expected to attend.

The six students are reportedly enrolled in a joint oenology program of Beijing Arome Wine School and France's Chateau de la Tour Blanche. They were assaulted just three months after they arrived in France.

A 24-year-old female student suffered serious facial injuries after being attacked with a glass bottle and has been admitted to hospital for treatment.

The alleged attackers were believed to be intoxicated when the assault happened, and two of them are now in police custody.

The incident, described by France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls as an act of xenophobia, has elevated the outrage and fears of Chinese people living, studying and traveling in France who have become targets and frequent victims of serious crimes.

On a visit to China in April, French President Francois Hollande ensured the safety of Chinese people in France.

Some Chinese internet users said that they are now too scared to travel or to study in France as the attack has damaged the reputation of France and the romantic impression they had about the country, and condemned the school's failure to protect the safety of their students.

French wine schools, while struggling with a decline in domestic enrolment, have benefited from soaring numbers of Chinese students who are drawn by the wine business and the potential of a career as a sommelier.

But now some young students in China are having second thoughts when it comes to studying in France.

"I think the deteriorating safety situation in France has to do with the bad economy and the high unemployment in the country," said a Chinese student in Bordeaux who graduated with a diploma in wine commerce and marketing last year.

There is also talk of resentment in the French wine region because of the recent wave of Chinese investors buying up vineyards in the country.

Friday's attack was also a reminder of the fatal beating of a left-leaning French student activist in Paris by far-right extremists earlier this month, as some people fear a resurgence of the far-right movement in French politics.

"Although it is not clear whether the attack on the Chinese students is the result of racism or just a dispute among neighbors, the rise of the extreme right-wing sentiment in France does worry me," the Chinese student said.

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