Kitty Shelley versus France

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  Netizens call for boycott.  April 15, 2008.


[in translation]

Recently, an Internet post calling everybody to boycott Carrefour on May 1st was broadly circulated and discussed.  At the same time, another SMS that called for people to continue the boycott for seventeen days has also been broadly circulated.  The reason is that a big shareholder of Carrefour is the LVMH group, which was alleged to have donated money to the Dalai Lama.  This is on top of what happened during the Olympic torch relay in Paris.  The netizens began with a boycott of LV but they have now targeted the more accessible Carrefour.

Some netizens said that they will definitely join in while others criticised the boycott and said that they will be certain to buy something at Carrefour on May 1st, even if it just a bottle of water.

"This is not nationalism.  This is a rational expression.  This is not calling for people to boycott all French goods, but it is specifically calling for boycotting a company that is involved with Tibetan independence.  Is that too much to ask?  This is not asking everybody to boycott Carrefour for all eternity.  This is just asking for one day: May 1st.  Can we not even do that?

"Let us unite  We must unite on this matter!  If we are united, we will let the French companies sense our strength.  If we stay silent forever, they won't care what we think."

So why is Carrefour involved?  The netizen who made the post said that Louis Vuitton did wrong and it happens to hold a lot of Carrefour shares.  That is why they want to boycott Carrefour.  By extension, I reasoned: China is the second largest holder of US Treasury bills and can therefore be said to be the second largest shareholder; when USA invaded Iraq, should certain Arab countries boycott China for that reason?

As long as you don't violate the law, you are free to show up and express your views in front of Carrefour.  But if you label all those who disagree with you as "unpatriotic," then that is wrong.  You have the right not to buy things at Carrefour on May 1st, just as I have the right to buy things there.  Even if I don't go, that would only be because I am lazy.  You should not make the mistake of thinking that I share your viewpoint.

"Let the color red be all over China." At 11:34pm on April 13, Kitty Shelley who had been protesting during the day outside the Carrefour located in Shiqiaoji, Beijing wrote a post with that title and published it at the Shuimu Forum.

According to Kitty Shelley, the purpose of the protest was to show "France that the Chinese know what they did."

Actually, more people besides Kitty Shelley want to protest.  A much bigger protest is taking place on the Internet and mobile telephones.  Since April 9, Chinese netizens at dozens of overseas websites initiated a boycott of Carrefour.

Suddenly, netizens were going to various forums and making the call, "On May 1st, everybody don't go to buy things at Carrefour."

The main reason for this boycott is that the Olympic torch relay did not go smoothly in Paris.  The local media reports made the Chinese netizens feel that "France is unfriendly."

Since the LVMH group was alleged to have donated money to the cause of Tibet independence, netizens began the boycott.  Last month, LVMH became the largest shareholder of Carrefour.  Due to this relationship, netizens put Carrefour on the boycott list as well.

The list includes the LVMH's brands LV, Christian Dior, Fendi, Guerlain, Clinique, Kenzo, Sephora, Hennessy, Mot and Cognac.  Some netizens said that the LVMH group gave a lot of money to the Dalai Lama and the streets of Paris were filled with French people supporting Tibet independence, "there is no reason to buy French products and give them money.  On May 1st, let us not go to Carrefour and let them see the force of the Chinese people."

Perhaps because it was easier for many people who are patrons of Carrefour to boycott for one day, the Internet campaign soon had Carrefour as the main target.

The call to boycott Carrefour was not limited to the Internet.  Another campaign is taking place on over mobile SMS and it is calling for an even longer boycott.  Many mobile phone users have received the same message calling for a boycott: "May 8-24 is exactly three months before the Beijing Olympics.  Everybody should stay away from Carrefour.  The reason is that the biggest shareholder of Carrefour had donated large amounts of money to the Dalai Lama, that France supports Tibet independence and that even the French president has said that he wants to boycott the Beijing Olympics.  So we will boycott Carrefour now for the same duration of seventeen days ... we will make the French businesses get worried."

The Internet post about protesting in front of Carrefour generated a wave of passion among netizens.  "Let them see the force of the Chinese people and the Chinese Internet," commented one excited netizen.  Another netizen said that if the Chinese people unite, there is nothing that they cannot win."

But many other netizens want to boycott the boycott of French goods.  Yesterday, Mr. Tan of Guangzhou received the Carrefour boycott message from a schoolmate.  But he refused to join the campaign.  He explained to this schoolmate: "Maybe I cannot convince them, but I need to let them know at least that some people have different ideas."

On the Internet, some netizens made the counter-proposal: "On May 1, I will make sure that I go to buy something at Carrefour, even if it is just a bottle of water.  I find this boycott quite embarrassing.  I may not be able to do much else, so I will go and purchase a bottle of water!"

Other netizens consider the whole boycott thing to be a farce: "If we get rid of French, German and British cars, we would need to ride the South China tiger when we go out.  After all, that one is made in China!"

Actually, even those netizens who want to protest do not all think that it is feasible.

"I don't want to boycott any individual French product such as Carrefour.  I even feel personally that it is neither practical nor necessary to hold a boycott.  If we can just stay away at the same time (such as on May 1) to let the French government see our stance, the goal would be achieved," said Kitty Shelley who was the first one to stand and protest in front of Carrefour.

As of the afternoon of April 14, the major Internet forums began to systematically delete the posts calling for the boycott Carrefour.


Concerning the Internet call to boycott Carrefour and other French businesses, Carrefour issued an emergency clarification yesterday.  When contacted by Southern Metropolis Daily, the Carrefour Southern China region public relations person said that the netizens are incorrectly describing the situation.  Carrefour has never given any money to aid the Dalai Lama, and it does not support Tibet independence.  LVMH had purchased some shares in Carrefour, but Carrefour is not a subsidiary of LVMH.  Just because one of big bosses of LVMH had given money to the Dalai Lama does not mean that Carrefour took part.

"Carrefour is a victim in this affair," said the Carrefour person about the criticisms from netizens.  She said that it was easier to target Carrefour which is a mass consumer retailer.  She said that sales at the various Carrefour outlets in China have been normal.

When the Carrefour spokesperson in China was interviewed in China, she said that she did not understand the boycott against the company.  She said that as a foreign company operating in China, they do not want to be involved in politics or sports.  "We are operating legally in China, we care about the needs of the Chinese consumers and we will act responsibly towards them as much as possible.


Our reporter contacted the Shanghai headquarters of LV.  The public relations person said that LV is one brand within the LVMH group, and asked the reporter to contact the French headquarters instead.  But the public relations person said that the Internet opinion should not impact the sales of LV products.  After all, LV is made for the upper-class echelon, whereas those netizens calling for the boycott are just ordinary consumers.

An unidentified French company:

Yesterday, a worker with an French company told our reporter that her company is paying close attention to these developments.  The situation is not a good sign for the company business.  She told the reporter that this type of nationalistic sentiments can easily direct the discontent of the Chinese masses against French businesses and goods.

(The Wall Street Journal)  In China, Citizens Call For Boycotts of Their Own.  By Jason Leow.  April 13, 2008.

Some Chinese citizens, angry over foreign criticism of their country's policies in Tibet, are calling for boycotts of at least two European retailers for purportedly supporting the Dalai Lama, the latest sign of growing tension between China and the West ahead of the Olympics.

Internet users in China -- it is unclear how many -- have been using instant-messaging services, blogs and bulletin boards to spread a call for Chinese consumers at home and abroad to boycott French supermarket operator Carrefour SA and cosmetics retailer the Body Shop, owned by L'Oral SA.

Those advocating the boycott argue that a major Carrefour shareholder has contributed funds to the Dalai Lama, regarded by many Tibetans as their spiritual leader. And Chinese critics are targeting the Body Shop because they say its Australian operation helped promote a tour of the Dalai Lama to that country in June.

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