On June 14, 2013, a group of five Chinese students were attacked by a group of three intoxicated local French men. The assailants hurled xenophobic and racist insults before hitting a 24 year old woman in the face with a champagne bottle. The attack occurred in the town of Hostens, 30 miles south of Bordeaux.

News of the attack triggered strong reactions in both China and France.

China Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the violent attack and urged the French government to ring the perpetrators to justice and take concrete actions to safeguard Chinese citizens safety and legitimate rights and interests.

On China’s micro-blogging site Weibo, reactions were varied:

@Emy Mi Sauce: “This is the first time I’ve heard of racism in France.”

@Riding into Chang’an wrote: “Make the connection between Chinese gold miners getting beaten in Africa and the Chinese students in France who were attacked yesterday. Everyone in the world thinks that the Chinese people are weak.”

@Yisudaer wrote: “On the Chinese students in France who got attacked: The six Chinese students were 22 to 30 years old. Five grown men and one woman had their faces messed up by three French gangsters. So shameful! Are you Chinese? Are you Han? Are you men?

@Sunzhenming wrote: “Hope all students studying abroad take care of themselves and help each other.”

@Straw hat Ji wrote: “Spreading the news just saw that six study abroad students in France got beaten up, one of whom is in critical condition. Foreign countries are messed up. If you want dignity, you need to rely on your motherland.”

The students were studying wine at La Tour Blanche School of Viticulture and Oenology. Hostens mayor Michel Viallesoubranne described the Chinese community as total of 11 people who are all very well-behaved. They’ve already well-integrated into life in the small town!

In France, officials unanimously condemned the attack, calling them “xenophobic” and “inadmissible.” Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll described the attack as an unspeakable act. It is the image of France that is damaged with the xenophobic attitudes.”

Wine producers in France are particularly worried about how this attack will be perceived in China. Vintner M. Michel hoped that France would apologize and make clear to the Chinese and all other foreigners that they are welcome here.” Another lamented, these youths study with us because they like our wine, our history, and our ways of doing business. They will be, in the future, our ambassadors in their country, and this is the message we send them?”

China is the world’s largest importer of Bordeaux wine, consuming 48 million bottles in 2012. Chinese wine importers are also quite nervous at the moment. It is expected that Beijing will slap tariffs on imports of European wine following EU anti-dumping tariffs on exports of Chinese solar panels.


Written by Yang Fu. Yang is a graduate student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. From Agence France-Presse