[photopress:carla_Bruni.jpg,full,alignright]The French Foreign Ministry claims the official tourism body for the Chinese capital of Beijing has urged tour operators to stop selling holiday packages to France. That is probably debatable. What is not debatable is the strong reaction in China to the French and their dealing with the carrying of the Olympic flame.
Thousands of pro-Tibet protesters disrupted the relay of the Olympic flame through Paris last month, forcing the torch to be extinguished. And it is not arguable the French government could have done a lot more to control the situation.
Perhaps they thought China would not notice. They were wrong. Chinese nationalists subsequently called for a boycott of French goods.
The government in Paris had hoped that now tensions were easing and the tourism boycott caught officials by surprise.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani told a regular news conference, ‘We have learnt that this recommendation was made by the tourism administration of Beijing. Our embassy in Beijing is currently taking steps with the Chinese authorities to find out the reasons that could have motivated it.’
If it happened it was because the efforts that were made by the French police to manage the run were, on the television footage available, pathetic.
While it is true the Olympic torch’s procession has also been disrupted in a number of other cities, most notably in London and San Francisco, the only place where it got out of control was France..
Some 700,000 tourists from mainland China visited France last year, according to Maison de la France, a tourism body. It was not clear how many of those came from Beijing.
Not helping is President Nicolas Sarkozy suggesting he will boycott the event unless China started talks with the Dalai Lama. As it happens the Chinese government has started such talks. Perhaps the best solution is for him not to come to the Olympics but just send along his wife — his third if one is counting — who is the pop singer Carla Bruni as seen in our illustration. Much more acceptable.