by Xinhua writers Ji Shaoting, Li Jianmin
BEIJING, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Protests involving hundreds of people erupted at Carrefour outlets in some Chinese cities on Thursday, with demonstrators holding national flags and shouting slogans against Carrefour, CNN and "Tibet independence".
The protests occurred in Changsha, Fuzhou, Beijing, Xi'an, Chongqing, Nanjing and Xiamen despite government call on patriotic youth to exercise "ration and sober-mindedness" when expressing opinions.
The number of protesters ranged from a dozen to hundreds. No large-scale protests were reported. Carrefour has 112 stores on the Chinese mainland, only a few of which were affected, according to reports of Xinhua's local bureaus.
Many protesters told Xinhua they gathered after receiving a notice on the Internet via an instant message (IM) service.
Police were maintaining order at the scene. Many protesters were persuaded to go home.
Two protesters chanting "Boycott Carrefour" and "Oppose CNN" attracted hundreds of spectators in front of the Carrefour store in Zhongguancun, a high-tech industry zone in Beijing where the country's top universities are located, at midday.
People cheered in response to their slogans. Some joined in and shouted "Go, China! Go, Olympics!" The crowd soon caused a traffic jam.
The two protesters were taken away by police but were followed by another two youths who took up the banners and continued the protest.
They were also persuaded to leave at 12:30 p.m. by police.
At another outlet in Baishiqiao Road in western Beijing, not far from Zhongguancun, a few young protesters in white T-shirts painted with red hearts waved national flags. The protest did not cause traffic jam and the store operated as usual.
So far, there have been no reports of protests at other Beijing Carrefour outlets.
Customers in Carrefour's shops in Beijing told Xinhua they had received text messages but chose to buy things at the stores out of convenience.
The French retailer was earlier accused by Chinese Internet users of supporting the Tibet secessionist forces, or the Dalai Lama and his followers. Carrefour China denied the accusation in a statement last month.
The protesters were also furious with CNN commentator Jack Cafferty who earlier had made derogatory remarks about China, calling the Chinese "the same goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years".
Protests also occurred in the central city of Changsha, Fuzhou and Xiamen in the southeast, Chongqing in the west, Nanjing in the east and Shenyang in the northeast.
In Changsha, capital of the central Hunan province, hundreds of protesters gathered at a Carrefour outlet around 10 a.m..
They held banners saying "Support Olympics", "Oppose Tibet Independence", "Love China" and "Unity is Power". Many people signed their names on banners and joined in the chanting of slogans.
At the entrance, about 200 protesters tried to persuade shoppers not to patronize the store.
Police blocked the entrance at 10:15 a.m. "to avoid accident as there were too many people," said an officer at the scene.
Many protesters told Xinhua they were college students and freshmen in companies from different cities in Hunan.
"I arrived in Changsha at 2 a.m. on Thursday from Hengyang City," said university student Luo Xing. Hengyang is about 200 kilometers from Changsha.
In Fuzhou, capital of the eastern Fujian Province, some young people handed out national flags and leaflets in the square outside a Carrefour store.
Local officials and about 40 police arrived at the scene to maintain order in the morning. The number of people in the square kept increasing and reached about 1,000 by 11 a.m.. Hundreds of other police officers soon arrived and started to persuade them to leave.
By 1 p.m. the square was quiet as the crowd dispersed.
In Shenyang, capital of the northeast Liaoning Province, dozen of students arrived with Chinese flags at an outlet at 9:20 a.m.. Ten minutes later, another four protesters held a dozen boards with images showing French and German boycott activities towards the Olympics.
They were soon taken away by local police. No conflicts occurred.
The demonstration was only aimed at raising Chinese people's patriotism, said a protester in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province.
"We simply want to send a message of loving our country and making efforts to improve it," he said.
A college student surnamed Ye shopping in a Carrefour shop in Hefei, Anhui Province, said he had read that about 95 percent of the commodities in Carrefour were made in China so any boycott could effect Chinese suppliers.
"My mind used to be occupied by patriotism. But after I saw Carrefour's supportive actions towards the Olympics this changed my mind," said Ye, who had earlier demonstrated against the retailer on April 19.
Demonstrations also occurred in Wuhan, Kunming, Qingdao, Xi'an,Jinan, Harbin and Dalian on April 19 and 20.
Protesters in most of the cities numbered more than 1,000 with about 2,000 in Wuhan.
However, many of the cities, like Kunming, Wuhan and Hefei, maintained normal operation on Thursday.
Carrefour China's spokesman Chen Bo said in an e-mail amidst last month's demonstrations that he believed it would be temporary. He didn't answer Xinhua's phone calls or text messages on Thursday.
Carrefour China announced the cancellation of its May Day sales and advertisements last week to "guarantee customer safety".
(Reporters in Xinhua's Beijing, Changsha, Fuzhou, Shenyang, Chongqing, Hefei, Nanjing bureaus contributed to this story.)