Beijing, 7 Jul (ZXS) -- Why did the death of a 5-year-old boy in France "detonate" days of riots?

China News Agency reporter Bo Wenwen

The riots sparked by the shooting death of Nahel, a 17-year-old boy of North African descent in France, have lasted a week ago. Although the situation is now easing to ease, the discussion of the reasons behind the riots has not stopped.

On June 6, on the outskirts of Paris, Nahel was shot and killed when police stopped a vehicle for inspection. Video of the scene caused an uproar on social media, and riots broke out in several French cities to protest police abuse and racial discrimination.

Why did this shooting incident become the trigger for days of riots? Zhang Jinling, researcher at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and director of the Social and Cultural Research Office, said in an interview with China News Agency that police brutality and racial discrimination are the key factors that trigger riots, and the deep cause lies in the inequality of the gap between the rich and the poor and the solidification of classes in French society.

It is understood that the police officer who opened fire has been detained and charged with intentional homicide. Zhang Jinling said that in fact, police brutality has always been a problem in France. The US "Foreign Policy" article said that the French police have long used high-pressure measures, especially against ethnic minorities. Studies have shown that younger people of color are more likely than whites their age to be checked by police and insulted or mistreated.

Due to the frequency of terrorist attacks, France introduced a law in 2017 that allows police to use firearms more widely, allowing them to shoot if a driver does not comply during a stoppage and the police believe that the person may harm others. Critics say the number of "lethal stops" has increased dramatically since the law was enacted. A Reuters investigation found that 2022 people died in this way at the hands of police in 13, and Nahr was the third victim this year. "Since 2017, most of the victims have been black or of Arab descent."

Undoubtedly, the riots exposed the systemic racism that French society has long deliberately avoided. According to some French scholars, the way the French view society often "selectively ignores the importance of people's sense of belonging to a racial, religious or cultural group" and "makes it difficult to tell the truth." "It's hard for the French mainstream media to even answer the obvious question directly: Would the incident have ended differently if the driver had been white?"

"Systemic racism has put France on fire." The Washington Post commented that for decades, French officials have not recognized that racial disparity policies are out of touch with people's actual lives. Under French law, data collection related to race and ethnicity is severely restricted, and "for minorities in France, the lack of data is not important, and their real lives are evidence of actual bias".

"From Standing in the Dark in 2016 to the 'Vest Yellow' movement in 2018 to the retirement system reform earlier this year, massive demonstrations have sparked. In recent years, a lot of anger and negative energy has accumulated in France. Zhang Jinling further pointed out that the social inequality problems faced by the French people such as the gap between the rich and the poor and the solidification of classes are the deep-seated reasons for the riots.

According to public information, Nahel lives on the outskirts of Paris, is of Algerian and Moroccan descent, and has no previous criminal record. He studied electrician at a training school near his home, but often missed classes. He also works as a delivery driver and enjoys playing rugby between jobs. People around him described Nahr as "a person who wants to integrate into society."

France has one of the highest rates of immigrants in Europe, with about one-tenth of the population being immigrants, and most of them live in the suburbs, and problems such as unequal distribution of resources are difficult to return. Zhang Jinling said that over the years, the uneven development and unequal opportunities between the suburbs and urban areas in France have made the French word "banlieue" evolve from a geographical concept to a pejorative term for poverty. "Foreign minorities gather here, and the poverty rate and unemployment rate of the second and third generations of young immigrants are relatively higher."

The rioters arrested were reportedly mainly from poor immigrant communities, with an average age of just 17. Zhang Jinling said that these young people saw themselves in Nahr's experience, saw injustice, and the incitement of social media led to the rapid spread of unrest and difficulty quelling.

In Zhang Jinling's view, although minorities in France are equal at the legal level, they are not truly respected in real life. "The riots have once again sounded the alarm for France, and how to promote harmonious coexistence between different ethnic groups and minimize ethnic conflicts is a problem that the French government needs to face up to and think about." (End)