China’s internet users reacted with outrage to reports of a racist assault on six Chinese students studying in France, while others denounced the victims as children of wealthy officials.
The oenology students were attacked early on Saturday in the wine-producing Bordeaux region, France’s interior ministry said, describing the violence as an act of xenophobia.
The Chinese embassy in Paris said on Sunday that it “strongly condemns” the assault.
“We ask relevant authorities in France to investigate the case swiftly, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and take relevant action to ensure the safety of Chinese students,” it said in a statement.
Three of the alleged attackers have been detained and are now in police custody. A female student seriously hurt by a glass bottle thrown at her face during the assault was in hospital and underwent surgery.
The attack was widely criticised on China’s most popular social networking service, Sina Weibo.
“How dangerous is France! We need to be cautious about going there now, and avoid going as far as we can. We should go to better countries,” one user wrote.
“This is too far for the French people. My impression of France used to be quite good, but now it’s damaged,” said another.
One of the victims was the daughter of a retired senior government official, the head of the student’s school said.
Chinese media carried reports of the attacks on Sunday, but did not mention the victim’s political connection.
The topic of politicians sending their children abroad to study provokes widespread resentment in China. It is rarely discussed by the tightly controlled press, which seldom comments on the family life of senior officials.
Still, some internet users speculated that the students were wealthy. “Those who can afford to study abroad are either the children of government officials or rich families,” one user said.
“They’re not worthy of sympathy,” another user said.
Others reading English-language reports turned their anger on the students. “Even foreigners can’t bear with the migration of corrupt officials and are punishing them abroad. This is karma,” said a user.
“That a random violent crime abroad has a government official’s child involved again proves there are no clean officials in China,” another wrote.
The attack came on the eve of one of the biggest wine shows in the world, Vinexpo, which is held in the region. China, which is French winemakers’ third biggest market, has increased its participation at the show, with 18 exhibitors expected this year, up from two in 2011.
“It’s the image of France which has been dented with these xenophobic attitudes,” Le Foll said, speaking at the inauguration of the wine fair.
Two representatives from the Chinese embassy were due to meet with Le Foll later on Sunday.