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Tibet, Olympics spark Chinese anti-Western protests PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 21 April 2008

Tibet, Olympics spark Chinese anti-Western protests

AFP, BEIJING - Fresh protests broke out across China Sunday with thousands of demonstrators targeting US broadcaster CNN and French chain store Carrefour in disputes over Tibetan unrest and the Beijing Olympics.

The latest protests came after rallies on Saturday at branches of Carrefour, which has been subject to boycotts by Chinese consumers over its alleged support of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama -- a claim it denies.

Protesters also targeted the CNN TV network over its commentator Jack Cafferty, who incensed authorities here last week when he called the Chinese leadership "goons and thugs" and slammed China for exporting unsafe products.

"This was a patriotic movement, people want CNN and Carrefour to apologise," Wang Zheng, a protester at a Carrefour store in the northern city of Xian, told AFP by phone.

"We oppose Tibetan and Taiwan independence and we also oppose the politicisation of the Olympic Games."

In Sunday's protests, demonstrators chanted slogans and held banners that read "Oppose Tibet independence," "Oppose CNN's anti-China statements," and "Boycott Carrefour," he said.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, more than 1,000 people assembled in front of the Carrefour in Xian, while demonstrations also occurred at stores in China's northeastern city of Harbin and the eastern city of Jinan.

Many Chinese protesters felt Cafferty's remarks on CNN were directed at ordinary Chinese, something that they said was inexcusable, Wang said.

Meanwhile, Internet chatrooms have been awash with accusations that Carrefour -- despite its denials -- has supported the exiled government of the Dalai Lama.

The protests in China followed noisy anti-China demonstrations in London, Paris and San Francisco that have marred the international Beijing Olympic torch relay, an event aimed at promoting this summer's Games.

Anti-China demonstrations have grown internationally since China began quelling unrest in Tibet that erupted on March 14 when peaceful protests turned into violent riots and spread through neighbouring Tibetan-populated areas.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say more than 150 people have died in the government crackdown. China says Tibetan "rioters" have killed 18 civilians and two policemen.

Sunday's protests came despite huge police presence after weeks of state-backed anti-Western rhetoric over the torch relay demonstrations and the western media coverage of Tibet appeared to whip up public outrage.

At one point, 53 police cars were seen on the rooftop car park of a Carrefour store in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao, an AFP photographer witnessed.

Dozens of law enforcement vehicles were seen clamping down on any sign of unrest on the streets around the store where large scale protests erupted Saturday, he said.

"The anti-Carrefour, anti-CNN, anti-France feelings all derive out of events in Tibet," Paul Harris, a China expert at Hong Kong Lingnan Univeristy, told AFP.
"To say this was not coordinated by government officials would be speculation... it is safer to say that the government was very much aware these things were being organised and allowed them to go ahead."

But Harris also said that Chinese authorities were gravely concerned that the anti-Western sentiment could evolve into anti-government unrest centered on unemployment, inflation and official corruption.

After protests erupted in the cities of Beijing, Qingdao, Wuhan, Hefei, Kunming and Xian on Saturday, the state press Sunday urged calm.

Saturday's protests led to Carrefour store closures in at least Qingdao, Wuhan and Hefei but on Sunday those stores and stores in Xian, Harbin and Jinan were all operating normally, Xinhua said.

"The more the Dalai Lama clique tries to disrupt the Olympic torch relay and some Western politicians and media take advantage to launch attacks and condemn China, the more we need to unify with the people of the world to hold a successful Olympic Games," the official Xinhua news agency said.

News broadcasts on state television said citizens must act responsibly ahead of the Beijing Games, but also condemned a perceived Western bias against China.

State television Sunday further reported large-scale pro-China protests that occurred around the world a day earlier in Los Angeles, Paris, Britain and Berlin.

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