Chinese shopkeepers protest in Madrid

MADRID, November 28, 2011 (AFP) - Hundreds of Chinese shopkeepers demonstrated in Madrid on Monday to demand licences to sell beer and wine, in their first ever public protest in Spain.

Some 200 demonstrators marched to the door of Madrid town hall with a stack of application papers for the so-called "second licences" that let grocers sell alcohol.

They said the licences were crucial to their economic survival but were being denied to them by local officials.

"It is hurting our business a lot. I want the same rights as Spaniards," said Pedro Zhang, head of a Chinese retailers' association.

He said Chinese shopkeepers were being systematically denied the licences at the discretion of municipal officials and were fined 30,000 to 600,000 euros (up to $800,000) for unauthorised selling.

"Why are they letting other convenience stores and all-night stores sell (alcohol) but not us?" he asked.

"Without this authorisation we cannot function," another of the leaders of the demonstration, Juan-Carlos Zheng, told AFP, before being escorted into the town hall with the box full of applications.

Chinese owners run large numbers of businesses in and around the Spanish capital but had usually kept a low profile until Monday's demonstration.

Demonstrators hoisted bamboo canes with banners reading "I pay my taxes, I want a second licence" and "Help us to integrate", along with red and yellow Spanish and Chinese flags.