Picture taken of the frontage of Printemps departement stores, 15 June 2006 in Paris. (AFP/Mehdi Fedouach)
Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga and a French department store have apologized after allegations that Chinese customers were mistreated in Paris sparked an uproar and calls for a boycott on Chinese social media.
Balenciaga and the Printemps store issued their apologies in Mandarin on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform, where the incident had become a top trending topic.
The hashtag #BoycottBalenciagaDiscriminatesChinese had been viewed 23 million times on Weibo on Friday.
China's state-run Global Times, citing a video posted online, said a Chinese customer scolded queue jumpers when she was standing in line to enter the Balenciaga shop in Printemps.
One of the jumpers pushed the woman and threatened to punch her, prompting her son to come to her defense, according to the tabloid, which cited a video that was posted on another Chinese social media platform, WeChat.
Her son was beaten to the ground by group, the daily said, adding that a sales clerk then allegedly insulted Chinese customers and told them to leave.
"Balenciaga shoes are beautiful, but such an episode is an eye-opener. #Boycott Balenciaga, which discriminates against the Chinese," said one Weibo user.
Another wrote: "You can say goodbye to the Chinese market."
In its statement late Thursday, Balenciaga said it regretted the incident and noted that security guards had acted immediately to restore calm.
"Balenciaga sincerely apologizes to the customers who were present and reaffirms its strong commitment to respect equally all its customers," it said on Weibo.
Printemps wrote that staff would receive additional training to ensure they manage such situations in the best possible way.
"We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to the Chinese customers involved in this altercation as well as to all those who were upset or inconvenienced in any way," it said.
Paris is a favorite European destination of Chinese travelers, and they are crucial clients for French luxury brands. Long lines of customers from China and other countries are common at Parisian stores.
But big-spending Chinese tourists have become targets for thieves in France, with the embassy issuing a statement last year urging them to exercise caution following "several large-scale violent robberies".