Chengdu Protest Targets French Store : Chengdu Diary Nationalistic Sentiment on Display in Chengdu.
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Chengdu Protest Targets French Store

It's been five weeks since the Tibet protests, and emotions in China are still raw. This weekend, demonstrations were staged outside Carrefour stores in a number of Chinese cities, including Beijing, Xi'an, Wuhan, Hefei, Dalian, Kunming, and here in Chengdu.

Protester waves Chinese flag at demonstration at French store in Chengdu. Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

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Andrea Hsu, NPR

Demonstrators were peaceful in their campaign to boycott the French superstore. Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

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Andrea Hsu, NPR

Carrefour is a French superstore — one of Wal-Mart's biggest competitors, with over 100 stores in China. A campaign to boycott those stores has been spreading through email, online chat rooms, and text-messages. Supporters of the campaign accuse the company of backing the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence. They're also angry about the disruption of the Olympic torch relay in Paris on April 7.

In an interview published in a French newspaper on Sunday, Carrefour's CEO Jose-Luis Duran said the company has not given "any direct or indirect support to any political or religious cause."

Demonstrators express anger at Western news media. Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

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Andrea Hsu, NPR

The protest I came across in Chengdu today was peaceful, and much smaller than some of the ones held in other cities, which reportedly numbered from one to two thousand. The Chengdu crowd I saw of 50 or 60 — mostly young people —- waved flags and signs, handed out fliers, and at one point, broke out singing the Chinese national anthem.

Protestors show nationalistic sentiment . Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

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Andrea Hsu, NPR

Passersby stopped to sign their names on a big red banner that read "Tibet is a part of China. Please do not distort the facts. Boycott French products (and) Carrefour, boycott German products. Chinese people should wake up. Demand that the government block BBC, CNN and other unfriendly media." (In case you hadn't yet heard, there is intense anger against western media over its coverage of the Tibet protests and events since.)

The scene today and conversations I've had over the past month are, to me, eerily reminiscent of the days and weeks following NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999. My Chinese friends and my American friends seem to have polar opposite takes on the situation. Each side has an impossible time understanding the other.

Reading through the flier handed to me at today's protest, I came across one paragraph that pretty much sums up much of what I've been hearing on this side of the globe:


"The Olympics are far away in Beijing, and might not bring us direct economic benefit. Still the Olympics are a matter not just of one city, but of the country as a whole. ....We as Chinese must try our best to defend the dignity of the motherland and to defend the Olympic spirit."

So as far as I can tell, this is not just Chinese government rhetoric, but a sentiment shared by much of the country. And one we're sure to hear repeated in the run-up to the Olympics.

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