French embassy 'under cyber-attack'
The website of the French embassy in Beijing has apparently come under cyber-attack after President Nicolas Sarkozy outraged the Chinese government by meeting the Dalai Lama.world Updated: Dec 12, 2008 13:01 IST
France has gone into diplomatic overdrive since Mr Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama to soothe China's hurt feelings
The authorities in Beijing issued a stern denunciation of the meeting last week, cancelled an EU-China summit and said trade with France might suffer.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry rejected any suggestion that the Chinese government might approve of the cyber-attack, reported to have made the embassy's website inaccessible for several days.
"From the perspective of the Chinese government, China is against the hacking of the websites of the embassies of other nations," its spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said.
"We have not seen any questions or concerns raised by France."
Nevertheless, relations between China and France remain at a low.
France has gone into diplomatic overdrive since the meeting to soothe China's hurt feelings.
Mr Sarkozy called China "one of the greats of the world" on Monday and stressed he supported "one China".
On Tuesday, his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who was appointed in part due to his work on human rights, weighed in.
"We did not want to cause offence to China, to the Chinese people or to Chinese leaders," he told a French parliamentary committee.
The cyber-attack is believed to have taken the form of mass attempts to access the site simultaneously, largely at night, disabling the system.
There are numerous informal hacking groups in China, some of which are believed to operate for nationalistic purposes, including attempts to access Pentagon and European defence ministry websites.
Their relationship to the authorities and the People's Liberation Army is unclear, though any links are hotly denied by the government.
"We have taken note of relevant reports, but from the reports I have seen this is speculation," Mr Liu said.
"When reporting or covering this issue, the media should base their reports on solid proof and not target China."
French businesses already fear informal boycotts of French goods, even if there is no further formal retaliation by the government. Similar boycotts after attacks on the Beijing Olympic Torch in France by pro-Tibet demonstrators in April, though, had limited effect.
Chinese state newspapers have run lengthy attacks on the Dalai Lama and in support of its own record in Tibet in recent days. Mr Liu also made clear that France was not yet forgiven.
"We don't think the explanation is valid or is going to solve the current difficulties," he said in response to Mr Kouchner's comments.
"The French side should be well aware of the severity of the current situation, take seriously China's concerns and take concrete measures to make conditions for the healthy development of China-France relations."