BORDEAUX—Six Chinese oenology students were attacked in the early hours of Saturday in France’s wine-producing region of Bordeaux, the interior ministry said, describing the violence as an act of xenophobia [hatred of foreigners].
The students, who had arrived in France only two months ago, were allegedly “violently attacked” by three local men who were visibly drunk and previously known to the police, a ministry statement said.
Two of the alleged attackers have been detained and are now in police custody.
A female student was seriously hurt in the face by a glass bottle which was thrown at her.
“She happens to be the daughter of a Chinese political figure,” said Sud Ouest newspaper on its website.
According to other sources, the political figure is no longer in office.
“I cannot confirm the name, but it is someone who has now retired, having been the mayor of a big city,” said Georges Jousserand, who heads the school in Bordeaux where the six Chinese between the ages of 22 and 30 were studying.
The students were attacked at their home in Hostens, a small village of 1,300 inhabitants located about 50 kilometers south of Bordeaux in southwest France.
Police had apparently called on the three suspects that night over the din they were making.
Following that incident, the alleged attackers went to the residence where the Chinese students were living, perhaps thinking that the students had complained to police about the noise, a source close to the case said.
“When the Chinese student opened the door, he was attacked. And while the other students were trying to push the assailants out, it was then that one of the attackers threw a bottle straight in the face of the female student,” according to Jousserand.
“Two of the attackers were particularly violent,” he added.
Another source close to the affair said the three were very drunk. They knew exactly where the Chinese students lived and hurled “racist insults” at them, said the source.
The mayor of Hostens, Michel Viallesoubranne, said that the students behaved calmly, while Jousserand said they were “perfectly integrated in this small village.”
Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned “severely this xenophobic act, for which the culprits must answer to before justice.”
The students were meant to be studying in France for a year.
Concern has grown in China in recent months over the increasing number of cases of thefts and attacks against Chinese tourists.
In March, a group of 23 Chinese tourists were robbed in a restaurant shortly after they landed at Paris airport. French Tourism Minister Sylvia Pinel was forced to come out to say she would do everything to find the perpetrators.
The latest attack came on the eve of one of the biggest wine shows in the world, Vinexpo, which is held in the region. China, which is the French winemakers’ third-biggest market, has increased its participation at the show, with 18 exhibitors expected this year, up from two in 2011.
Chinese investors have begun buying up vineyards in Bordeaux, not always to the pleasure of locals.
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.