Chinese nationalists hit at Carrefour over Tibet

Nationalist protests against the French supermarket chain Carrefour spread across China on Sunday, with thousands demonstrating outside stores over the West’s stance on Tibet.

The authorities appeared to be trying to damp down the protests, with the official media urging citizens to be ”calm” and ”rational”. Internet users said web references to protests and boycott calls appeared to have been deleted, or the relevant pages blocked.

Overseas, expatriate Chinese on Saturday rallied in Paris as well as outside CNN’S offices in California and the BBC in Manchester — which are also accused of alleged media bias over Tibet.

Carrefour appears to be taking the rap for France as a whole after a protester in Paris tried to snatch the Olympic flame from a Paralympian during the relay, and because of a rumour that the supermarket had donated money to the Dalai Lama. Carrefour says it has never given money to any political or religious cause.

Protests reached China’s north-east on Sunday, with about 1 000 demonstrators turning out in the cities of Dalian and Harbin, while Jinan, in the east, saw a small protest. In Xi’an, western China, more than a thousand people waving banners gathered outside the supermarket for a second day, chanting ”Oppose Tibet independence”, ”Go China” and ”Condemn CNN”, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

Wuhan, in central China, also saw further demonstrations, with 2 000 protesters waving the Chinese flag and singing the national anthem.

Kunming, Hefei and Qingdao saw protests on Saturday. In Beijing on Saturday, small demonstrations took place outside the French embassy, the city’s French school and outside Carrefour.

All the protests were heavily policed and peaceful.

In an interview published in Journal du Dimanche, Carrefour’s chief executive, José Luis Duràn, said there had been no significant economic impact, but the company was taking the situation very seriously. It has two million customers and 122 hypermarkets in China.

He added: ”It must be understood that a large part of the Chinese population has been very shocked by the incidents that have peppered the passage of the Olympic torch through Paris.”

An editorial published widely in the state-run media called on people to cherish patriotism ”while expressing it in a rational way”.

”The government allows people to vent … but then immediately reins it in,” said Barry Sautman, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. ”They are afraid it will go too far.”

He cited similar behaviour after anti-Japanese protests three years ago, but told the Reuters news agency that the pending Olympic Games made the authorities particularly anxious to ensure the protests ended as soon as possible.

The government also appears concerned about potential economic damage. After calls for the Carrefour boycott began, an official commentary said patriotic zeal should ”concentrate on development”, adding: ”Thirty years of reform and opening up have created a China miracle … But we must be crystal clear that the future road will not be all smooth-going.” — Â

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