Xi Jinping

Spotlight falls on French first lady on China visit

State media doesn’t know what to call Valerie Trierweiler; try ‘first girlfriend’, blogger says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 4:32am

French President Francois Hollande is in China to boost bilateral economic ties, but his partner Valerie Trierweiler is drawing more attention from mainland internet users.

Trierweiler was welcomed by President Xi Jinping and first lady Peng Liyuan when she arrived in Beijing with Hollande on Thursday, but there seemed to be a protocol-related problem.

In its main newscast on Thursday, China Central Television (CCTV) only mentioned Trierweiler by name, without giving her a title.

Hollande met Premier Li Keqiang yesterday before having lunch with Xi and Peng, and then heading to Shanghai to conclude his two-day trip.

Li said China and France shared a lot of "common interests" and China wanted to see a prosperous Europe. But he also said China was opposed to protectionist trade policies.

While state media have reported and commented extensively on Hollande's trip, with CCTV broadcasting the welcoming ceremony, many mainland internet users have asked why it only mentioned Hollande.

"Is it embarrassing to address Trierweiler as 'first girlfriend'?" a microblogger asked.

Many others asked whether Hollande was sharing a hotel room with Trierweiler.

"I guess Hollande and Trierweiler do not have a marriage certificate, and they may have violated the law if they stayed in the same hotel room," one wrote.

I guess Hollande and Trierweiler do not have a marriage certificate, and they may have violated the law if they stayed in the same hotel room

The mainland's public security law stipulates that a man and a woman who are not married may be charged with engaging in prostitution, which is subject to a maximum penalty of 15 days' detention and a fine of 5,000 yuan (HK$6,230), if they behave "suspiciously" in a public place or private residence.

Hollande and Xi vowed on Thursday to promote a new global order not dominated by any single superpower. The two leaders also witnessed the signing of deals and co-operation agreements.

Meanwhile, Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of PPR Foundation, who owns two bronze sculptures of the heads of a rabbit and a rat looted from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing more than 150 years ago, said yesterday that his family would return them to China. He said this would be done this year.

Hollande was the first Western head of state to visit China since Xi became president last month, Xinhua noted. It said both nations should properly handle differences in their social and political systems. It added that the bilateral trade imbalance could not be resolved quickly.