Attack on Chinese students dents France's image: Minister

BORDEAUX (AFP) - French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on Sunday that the country's image had taken a hit following an attack on six Chinese oenology students in the wine-producing Bordeaux region.

Two representatives from the Chinese Embassy in Paris have gone to Bordeaux and were due to meet with Mr Le Foll later on Sunday, French officials said.

Racist insults were hurled during the attack early on Saturday in which a female student was seriously hurt in the face by a glass bottle that was thrown at her, Mr Le Foll said. She was hospitalised and underwent surgery.

"It's an unspeakable act," Mr Le Foll said, speaking at the inauguration of the Vinexpo in Bordeaux, one of the world's biggest wine fairs.

China is the third-biggest market for French wines.

"It's the image of France which has been dented with these xenophobic attitudes," Mr Le Foll added.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls has already denounced the "xenophobic" attack and vowed stern action against the perpetrators.

Three of the alleged attackers have been detained and are now in police custody.

The students were attacked at their home in Hostens, a small village of 1,300 inhabitants about 50km south of Bordeaux in south-west France.

Concern has grown in China in recent months over the increasing number of thefts and attacks targeting Chinese tourists.

In March, a group of 23 Chinese tourists were robbed in a restaurant shortly after they landed at Paris' airport.

In the Bordeaux region, many locals have looked on with dismay as Chinese investors have begun buying up vineyards.

French winemakers have recently also sounded the alarm over an anti-dumping probe launched by Beijing into wine imports from the European Union, in an apparent retaliation act over Brussels' decision to slap tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports.

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