China Perspective

Chinese protest in streets of Paris

By Cheng Guangjin (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-21 06:50
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BEIJING - Organizers expected about 10,000 Chinese nationals would take to the streets of Paris on Sunday, appealing for the French government to improve public security in the country where the Chinese community has been frequent victims of robbery.

More than 30 Chinese associations planned to participate in the demonstration under the slogan of "No violence, but security". Among them are Chinese in France from various walks of life, overseas students and victims of crime.

The demonstration, which would be the largest ever by overseas Chinese, would include former French president Jacques Chirac's adopted Vietnamese daughter, and the head of Paris District 20, said Radio France Internationale.

"We are demonstrating to fight for our own interests and urge relative departments in the French government to intensify the fight against crimes," Chen Shengwu, organizer of the demonstration and chairman of the Association of Chinese Residents in France, told China Daily on Sunday.

On the website of the Chinese embassy in France, councilor Xu Jiangong said the embassy firmly supported Chinese nationals expressing their demands through legal means, and had asked French police to enhance protection.

Setting off from Paris' newest Chinatown Belleville at 3 pm local time, the protesters were scheduled to walk to Place Du Colonel Fabien and return to Belleville about 5 pm.

A call to the Chinese residents association before the demonstration was greeted with enthusiasm as the operator at first mistook the reporter for a participant.

"Come to Belleville at 2 pm. There will be crowds of people. You won't miss it. We'll set off at 3. Let's show Chinese people's enthusiasm and power," the operator said.

Reports of Chinese nationals in France being robbed have become more common in recent years.

In May, Wuyun Qimuge, vice-chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, experienced an attempted robbery in her car on the way to airport in Paris, but with the protection of her security staff suffered no loss or injury, China News Service reported.

Jin Chunlei, press counselor with the Chinese embassy in France, told China Daily that the underlying cause of the demonstration is poor public order in French society, and "the most recent trigger is the Zhong Shaowu incident," Jin said.

On the night of June 1, when a group of local gangsters cornered and robbed some Chinese nationals who were leaving Chinatown Belleville after a wedding, Zhong grabbed a gun and wounded a gangster, reported Nouvelles D'Europe, a Chinese language daily newspaper in Europe.

Zhong, a Wenzhou businessman, was later taken away by police and is still under arrest, according to the newspaper.

Paris police said the problem was not Zhong shooting in self defense, but illegally possessing guns, the newspaper said.

Jin said embassy staff visited Zhong, and he has a lawyer.

March organizer Chen praised Zhong's bravery and said he has become a model for the overseas Chinese in France who are relatively indifferent to others' misfortunes - which does nothing to improve the situation.

"Chinese people are well known for their habit of taking lots of cash with them, taking bags of luxury brands, and they don't have enough awareness of self-defense," Chen said, adding that Chinese do not always stand up to help others who are being robbed like Zhong did.

Chen also criticized the French legal system, which has very mild punishment for robbery.

"Only a few days in prison and then they're out. Who would take it so seriously?"

After Chinese embassy officials spoke to French police on June 15, police promised to improve security by increasing patrols around Belleville and installing surveillance cameras in the block.