BEIJING (Reuters) - Dozens of young Chinese, angry at disruption of the Olympic torch relay in Paris, protested outside a Carrefour branch in east China on Friday, setting fire to a French flag, waving banners and shouting slogans, local media said.
There have been small protests at the French retail giant’s stores in several Chinese cities, including Beijing, in the past week, but the latest outburst in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao came after state media moved to cool down the nationalistic fervor.
Chinese Internet users are calling on consumers to boycott Carrefour, which they accuse of supporting pro-Tibetan independence groups seeking to disrupt this year’s Beijing Olympics.
The journey of the Olympic torch around the world has been dogged by protests, largely over Chinese rule in Tibet, where a wave of anti-government unrest erupted in March.
In Paris, numerous protests and attempts by activists to snatch the torch prompted Chinese security officials to extinguish the torch several times and put in on a bus.
Local media photos showed the protesters holding up banners that read “Boycott France, Support the Olympics” and “Oppose Tibet independence, Love the motherland”.
They waved red Chinese flags and shouted slogans, attracting a big crowd of onlookers. One photo showed a man burning a French flag.
Chinese Internet message boards have also featured photos from Hefei, capital city of the eastern province of Anhui, where several “elementary school students” staged a protest with a banner reading “Oppose Carrefour, Shopping is shameful”.
France has tried to play down calls for a boycott of French goods, saying they were being made by a “very small minority” and Carrefour, which has more than 100 hypermarkets in China, has restated its support for Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics.
Some Chinese newspapers have also run commentaries against the boycott, saying in the era of globalization it would only hurt Chinese employees and suppliers.
Still, an opinion poll in 10 Chinese cities found 66 percent of respondents supported the Carrefour boycott, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Only 7 percent said outright that they would not.
Writing by Guo Shipeng; Editing by Nick Macfie