China urges France to protect Chinese tourists after group of 40 robbed

BEIJING (Reuters) - China urged France on Monday to take more effective measures to ensure the safety of its nationals visiting the country, after a group of 40 Chinese tourists was tear-gassed and robbed in Paris.

Attacks on Chinese, Japanese and Korean tourists are relatively frequent in the French capital, as robbers believe they carry large sums in cash and their luggage is stuffed with expensive products.

Four men targeted the Chinese travelers in the parking lot of their hotel in the Val-de-Marne suburb southeast of Paris on Thursday, on their return from a city tour, the state-run Xinhua news agency said, citing French media.

The assailants stole nine bags thought to be filled with luxury goods, it said on Sunday.

China’s embassy in France had contacted police and told them to “crack the case”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing, adding that Chinese visitors should be alert to the security situation.

“We will urge French police to crack this case as soon as they can and bring the criminals to justice, and take even more effective measures to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens in France,” Hua said.

She said the tour group had already returned to China, and the case was still being investigated.

In August 2016, 27 Chinese tourists were assaulted by six men who boarded a bus that was to take them to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport.

Paris is on track this year to welcome more tourists than ever before, the city’s tourist board said in August, a recovery from a lull following Islamist attacks in November 2015 that killed 130 people.

Chinese travelers spent $261 billion overseas last year, making them a key demographic for retailers and hotel chains around the world.

But growth in Chinese outbound tourism is slowing, with attacks in Europe, instability on the Korean peninsula and political uncertainty in the United States prompting some Chinese to opt instead for domestic trips.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez