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Don’t Discuss China Politics Topics With Chinese Tourists – French Official

Posted by Author on January 6, 2007

By JOHN LEICESTER, The Associated Press / International Herald Tribune, France, January 4, 2007-

PARIS: Here is a French government tip on how best to do business with the Chinese: Do not mention Tibet, Taiwan or the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

The advice, offered in a new guide co-produced by France’s Tourism Ministry and its tourism promotion agency, has provoked sharp criticism from human rights and free Tibet campaigners.

The 65-page guide, “Chinese tourists: How best to welcome them?” is designed to help French businesses tap into the boom in Chinese tourism by offering an array of do’s and don’ts.

Do put out soy sauce and chili paste so Chinese tourists can spice up French dishes, “which they can find bland,” says the guide that Tourism Minister Leon Bertrand launched last month.

But do not put Chinese tourists in hotel rooms with the number four, which is associated in China with death, and do not turn up late for business dinners, because that is “an insult,” the guide also advises.

And do not mention politics, the guide says. “Avoid speaking about Chinese politics, for example: The events on Tiananmen Square, strategic questions of Taiwan or of Tibet,” it says.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of unarmed protesters were killed when the Chinese army cleared the square in the heart of Beijing of student demonstrators on June 4, 1989. China has threatened to use force to assert its claim of sovereignty over the self-ruling island of Taiwan and has been accused of widespread human rights abuses in Tibet since it invaded the Himalayan territory in 1950.

Francis Perrin, a spokesman for Amnesty International in France, said the French ministry’s advice was consistent with the softer approach that France and other European Union governments have adopted toward China’s human rights record in recent years — while China’s growing economy has held out the prospect of lucrative contracts for the West.

“Various governments, including France, use kid gloves to accommodate China on these extremely sensitive political questions,” Perrin said. But “nothing is won in the long-term by brushing key issues under the carpet.”

A spokeswoman for France’s League of Human and Citizens’ Rights, Elisabeth Alles, called the guide’s political tip “completely scandalous.” Marcelle Roux, head of the campaign group France Tibet, called it “shameful.”

The guide’s cover bears the logos of the French tourism promotion agency — Maison de la France — and of the Ministry of Transport, Equipment, Tourism and of the Sea, with the slogan of the French republic, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

Franck Paillard, vice director of communication for Maison de la France, defended the guide’s political tip, but acknowledged that the aim was to avoid subjects that could anger Chinese visitors.

“It is not that we do not want to discuss them, it is more that they apparently are bothered by it,” he said.

France’s Foreign Ministry distanced itself from the guide, saying in a statement to The Associated Press: “It is evident that this brochure does not in any way translate into a change of policy with regard to China.”

original report

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