France says it targeted by Beijing tourism boycott
Reuters[Saturday, May 31, 2008 10:13]
PARIS, May 30 - The official tourism body for the Chinese capital of Beijing has urged tour operators to stop selling holiday packages to France, the French Foreign Ministry said today.

Relations between France and China have soured in the run up to the Beijing Olympics after thousands of pro-Tibet protesters disrupted the relay of the Olympic flame through Paris last month, forcing the torch to be extinguished.

Chinese nationalists subsequently called for a boycott of French goods, but Paris had hoped that tensions were easing and the tourism boycott caught officials by surprise.

''We have learnt that this recommendation was made by the tourism administration of Beijing,'' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani told a regular news conference.

''Our embassy in Beijing is currently taking steps with the Chinese authorities to find out the reasons that could have motivated it,'' she said.

The Olympic torch's procession has also been disrupted in a number of other cities, most notably in London and San Francisco.

Some 700,000 tourists from mainland China visited France last year, according to Maison de la France, a tourism body. It was not clear how many of those came from Beijing.

Sarkozy has fanned the flames of discontent in China by refusing to say whether he would attend the opening of the Beijing Games, suggesting he would boycott the event unless China started talks with the Dalai Lama.

Envoys of the Dalai Lama met Chinese officials on May 4 to discuss recent unrest in Tibet. Formal roundtable talks are scheduled for the second week in June.