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Spain Urged to Punish Warehouse Arsonists

China on Thursday requested the Spanish government to investigate the cause of the fire set to a Chinese warehouse in Spain and severely punish those responsible.


Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said at a routine news briefing in Beijing that China has asked the Spanish government to safeguard Chinese citizens' personal and property security in Spain.


"Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang has met with the Spanish ambassador to China. China's ambassador to Spain also met officials with the Spanish Foreign Ministry, expressing China's strong concern," Kong said.


Shen Guofang on Thursday called in the Spanish ambassador to China, and urged the Spanish government to take concrete measures to fully investigate the case immediately and punish those involved.


Shen also requested compensation for the losses of Chinese businessmen and action to guarantee the safety and property of Chinese people living in Spain.


Ambassador Jose Pedro Sebastian de Erice condemned the violence and said the Spanish government has promised to "protect the integrity of (Chinese nationals) and avoid a repetition of such acts." 


On September 16, around 500 people demonstrated in the Carrus industrial zone in Spain's city of Elche chanting "Chinese out" and set fire to the warehouse of a Chinese shoe shop and a container causing losses of 800,000 euros (US$984,000).


Officials from the Chinese Embassy in Spain traveled to Elche the next day to negotiate with local authorities and urged them to take effective measures to protect the legal rights of Chinese businessmen.


Chinese Ambassador to Spain Qiu Xiaoqi said the Elche incident is the first serious case of violence against Chinese businessmen in Spain, adding that the embassy has strongly condemned the acts.


Chinese circles were in uproar after the incident and some businessmen have shown concern for their future in Spain.


An official with the Chinese Embassy surnamed Lin told China Daily yesterday that the situation has calmed since early yesterday morning and most of the shops have resumed business.


"Most Chinese businessmen have calmed down," Lin said, adding that most Spanish people are friendly towards Chinese.


Ten suspects were arrested on September 16 and another five were arrested yesterday by local police with investigations continuing, said Lin.


Lin said it is still too early to say whether there are "deeper motivations behind the case."


Local residents said that before the violence some anonymous leaflets protesting cheap shoes from Asia were circulated in the zone. Some leaflets even encouraged arson.


Local officials said the protests were organized by a "small, non-representative group" acting without authorization.


Elche, located in the southeast of the country, is the capital of Spain's footwear industry. In the past two years, the number of Chinese shoe shops in Elche has grown to over 60. Chinese shoe shops in Spain cater to a wide range of styles from children to ladies and gents.


"Good quality and reasonable prices have made Chinese shoes very popular here in recent years and it is also why Chinese shoe shops boomed so rapidly in Spain," Lin said.


Also at yesterday's briefing, Kong Quan said China has long strongly opposed US arms sales to Taiwan, which violate the three Sino-US joint communiqués and the one-China policy promised by the US.


In addition, Kong denounced the US's unilateral decision to punish a Chinese company that it accuses of proliferating technologies of weapons of mass destruction.


"China has a firm stance and effective measures against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their carriers, and is able to take immediate action when such things happen. China completely disagrees with the US action against Chinese companies and entities based on its domestic laws," the spokesman said.


Kong said this is not good for Sino-US cooperation in the field. China demands the US withdraw its wrong decisions.


In response to a reporter's question, Kong said China hopes the Russian government will urge oil giant Yukos to complete its cooperation project with China.


Kong said Yukos has signed a contract to supply crude oil to China and he hopes that contract will be fulfilled.


Yukos says it will partly suspend its crude oil supply to China.


Kong believes Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov will discuss energy cooperation during their meeting in Russia this week.


In another development, Kong said the UN should decide on the new permanent members of the Security Council only after full discussion.


Japan, Germany, Brazil and India have so far expressed the hope to be admitted as permanent members of the UN Security Council.


Kong said opinion is divided on the new permanent members of the council.


Kong said China understands the aspiration of all countries taking an active part in world affairs.


Kong Quan announced Premier Wen Jiabao will pay an official visit to Vietnam and attend the fifth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Hanoi from Oct. 6 to 9 at the invitation of Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai; and French President Jacques Chirac will pay a state visit to China and attend the opening ceremony of the French Culture Year from Oct. 8 to 12 at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao.


Kong also confirmed that Chinese Finance Minister Jin Renqing and Governor of the People's Bank of China Zhou Xiaochun will attend a special meeting with the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries on Oct. 1.


He said to keep contact with G7 is in the interest of both sides as well as the world peace and stability. China is willing to participate in such meetings.


G7 was launched in 1975 with five members -- the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany and France -- in response to the world oil-price shock. Italy and Canada joined later.


(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily, CRI.com September 24, 2004)

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