Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 1 News List

New anti-French rallies form in China

VENTING ANGERWhile hundreds of people protested outside outlets of a French retail chain, Mia Farrow was allowed into Hong Kong to deliver a speech on Darfur

AP AND AFP , BEIJING AND HONG KONG

Protesters waved Chinese flags and shouted slogans outside Carrefour stores in Beijing and other cities yesterday, venting anger over the disruption of the Olympic torch relay. No violence was reported and police dispersed the gatherings.

The French retailer has borne much of the nationalistic backlash after a pro-Tibet protester in Paris tried to grab the Olympic torch from a Chinese athlete in a wheelchair. Chinese Web sites have accused Carrefour of supporting the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, but the company denied that.

In Beijing, a handful of protesters at a Carrefour in the Haidian university district were outnumbered by dozens of police who guarded the store, which was packed with shoppers. Police detained seven men and two women. One of the men carried a sign saying “Protest Carrefour, Protest CNN” as about 200 spectators cheered. US-based CNN has been a focus of complaints that foreign news coverage of China’s crackdown on Tibet is biased.

“We want to let all foreigners know that China is very angry today. We have to let Chinese people in China know that we are united,” a protester said as he was led to a police van.

Protesters also carried banners and chanted slogans at Carrefour stores in Changsha in central China, Fuzhou in the southeast, Chongqing in the southwest and Shenyang in the northeast, the government’s Xinhua news agency reported. It said hundreds of people demonstrated in Changsha and 400 were on hand in Fuzhou, but it gave no other details.

The protests occurred despite Beijing’s efforts to discourage them and to calm anti-French sentiment.

Calls for boycotts of foreign companies have been deleted from Web sites.

A top figure in the ruling Communist Party, Jia Qinglin (賈慶林), on Wednesday called for Chinese to channel their “patriotic passion” into holding a successful Beijing Olympics in August.

Carrefour outlets in a dozen cities were the target of earlier protests, with scuffles erupting between Chinese and foreigners.

Paris-based Carrefour is China’s biggest retailer, with 112 outlets in areas throughout the country.

Phone calls to Carrefour officials yesterday were not answered.

At a Carrefour on Beijing’s east side yesterday, there was no sign of protests and the store was packed with shoppers.

One woman said she came to see whether there would be protests and stayed to shop.

“I heard about it, but didn’t think it would happen,” said the woman, who would give only her surname, Liu. “And since I was here, I figured I would pick up some things.”

Meanwhile, US actress and activist Mia Farrow yesterday touched down in Hong Kong, promising not to disturb the Olympic torch relay as she campaigns over Darfur and China’s links to the Sudan government.

Amid fears over freedom of speech ahead of today’s leg of the relay — which has been dogged by protests on its worldwide journey — Farrow said she had been questioned briefly by officials on her arrival.

“They were very polite and very nice,” she told reporters at Hong Kong airport. “They wanted some assurance that we are not here to disrupt the torch relay, which of course we are not.”

Today’s relay is expected to offer a last chance for pro-Tibet protesters and critics of China’s rights record to target the torch before it passes from the relatively open former British colony to the more restrictive mainland.

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