FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil – Chinese tourists are avoiding France because of President Nicolas Sarkozy and his country’s attitude toward Tibet, a senior Chinese tourism official told AFP on the weekend.
“Chinese tourism to France has reduced a lot because they (Chinese tourists) don’t like what Sarkozy did before the Olympics and afterwards,” Ji Xiao Dong, the vice president of China’s Chamber of Tourism, said on the sidelines of a global tourism conference in Brazil.
Ji said he was referring to pro-Tibet protests in France in the lead-up to the Olympic Games held in China last year, and to talks last December in Poland between Sarkozy and Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
When asked to quantify the fall in Chinese visitors to France, the world’s number one tourist destination, Ji said “it’s not clear yet what the number is, but there are many fewer.”
He explained that France was still the preferred European destination for Chinese tourists, but said many were miffed by Paris’s approach to Tibet, which is under Chinese rule.
“Ordinary Chinese people don’t like politicians or politics,” Ji said, adding that “how the Chinese think about France” has changed in recent months.
France and China have ostensibly mended relations since Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.
But Beijing warned Paris early this month against more “errors” after a spokesman for the Dalai Lama said the Tibetan spiritual leader may be made an honorary citizen of French capital during a June 6-8 visit.
China opposes any government figure meeting the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of being intent on achieving independence for Tibet after 58 years of Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama however says he only wants autonomy for the Himalayan region.