Europe

China embassy sparks France spat with 'thug' label for French researcher

PARIS (AFP) – The Chinese embassy in Paris has branded a French researcher critical of its Taiwan policy a “little thug” and a “troll”, the mission’s latest salvo to spark outrage.

Mr Antoine Bondaz, who works at the Foundation for Strategic Research, has been engaged in a war of words with the embassy over its attempts to dissuade French members of Parliament from visiting Taiwan.

Last Friday (March 19), the embassy called China expert Mr Bondaz a “little thug”, prompting a flurry of criticism from other researchers and MPs.

On Sunday, the embassy doubled down, tweeting that those who “portray themselves as researchers and members of the media and who furiously attack China” were “crazy hyenas”.

“There are people who want to see Chinese diplomacy become ‘lamb-like’, unflinching in the face of attack. That period is well and truly over,” the embassy wrote.

China’s ambassador to France Lu Shaye has frequently made headlines for his tirades against those who criticise Beijing.

In January 2019, he accused Canada of “white supremacy” for calling for the release of two Canadians detained in China, days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the United States.

Later that year, he moved to France, where he lashed out at the government and the wider European Union over their criticism of Beijing’s clampdown on protesters in Hong Kong, accusing them of “hypocrisy”.

The latest spat was sparked by the announcement by a group of French senators that they planned to visit Taiwan.

In a letter to one of the senators, Mr Alain Richard, the Chinese embassy said it was firmly opposed to the visit which would “clearly violate the one-China policy and send the wrong signal to ‘Taiwanese pro-independence forces'”.

The French foreign ministry defended the senators, declaring that “French MPs freely decide about their trips and contacts”.

It is not the first time that China has reacted furiously to a visit by foreign dignitaries to Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province to be reunified, by force if necessary.

In 2020, Beijing called a visit to Taiwan by the president of the Czech Senate, Mr Milos Vystrcil, a “provocation” and vowed that he would “pay the price”.

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French Member of the European Parliament Raphael Glucksmann on Monday urged President Emmanuel Macron’s government to “react swiftly and strongly” to the attack on Mr Bondaz.

“France is not a doormat,” wrote Mr Glucksmann, who has nearly 250,000 Twitter followers.

Mr Bondaz accused the embassy of an unjustified attack and said it showed “a complete sense of impunity on the part of the embassy”.

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