China’s President Xi Jinping has begun a state visit to France in the southeastern city of Lyon, where Chinese silk-making skills took root in the 15th Century.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius led the welcome for the Chinese leader at the start of a trip marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Our correspondent Fabien Farge said: “A gala dinner in Lyon with city authorities marks the first official part of President Xi Jinping’s three-day state visit to France. And he is staying in the city on Wednesday, visiting the Franco-Chinese Institute and a major laboratory belonging to a biotechnology firm.”
Trade deals are at the heart of this visit which will culminate in Paris. But on its first leg in Lyon, not everyone was happy that the Chinese President was in town and a small protest was held denouncing Beijing’s stance on Tibet, Taiwan and human rights.
“It is just to pass on a message to stir something in his heart,” said one Tibetan woman, taking part in the demonstration. “He is a product of the 21st Century. He can’t just remain aloof from it all, like a Mao Tse Tung.”
“We are in a society, not only French society but in global terms, where the only thing that counts are identity papers,” another protester said. “But today Tibetans don’t have any legal papers. They don’t exist in the eyes of the law – neither in Tibet, which is considered as a Chinese province, nor even in Europe. So when they want to travel, they have no legal status.”
Lyon has been in lockdown for this visit, with security tight. The same can be expected in Paris, with further anti-China protests planned.