France and the European Union are sending top officials to China this week to calm growing tensions ahead of the Olympic Games - and to reiterate European concerns about Beijing's human rights record and its policies in Tibet. Lisa Bryant has more on the missions from Paris.
France has born the brunt of Chinese ire over the botched Olympic flame relays in Paris and in London by human rights and pro-Tibet protesters. Now, in the face of informal Chinese calls to boycott French products being circulated in text messages and the Internet, the center-right government of President Nicolas Sarkozy is dispatching three top officials to try to lower tensions with Beijing.
The first, French Senate President Christian Poncelet arrived in Shanghai Monday carrying a letter from Mr. Sarkozy inviting Chinese athlete Jin Jing to visit France. The wheelchair-bound Chinese athlete has become a hero of sorts in China after trying to shield the Olympic torch earlier this month from rowdy protesters in Paris. Former French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin arrives in Beijing Thursday while Mr. Sarkozy's top diplomatic advisor Jean-David Levitte arrives a day later.
Jean-Dominique Giuliani, head of a French foundation who headed to China with Mr. Poncelet, said France and China must address their differences in a responsible manner.
Mr. Giuliani told French radio that those who want to give France a hard time are wrong. There are trade and human rights problems and political disagreements between China and the European Union as a whole. But he said those problems need to be addressed responsibly - not through boycott calls and protests.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is also heading to China Thursday, where he is expected to address European concerns about China's policies on human rights and Tibet.
Two European leaders, Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's Gordon Brown, have said they will not attend the August Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. President Sarkozy of France, the country that takes over the rotating EU presidency in July, has not said whether he will attend.
In a gesture that may add to tensions between Europe and Tibet, the leftist Paris city government voted Monday to make Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia honorary citizens.