This occured on June 21, 1870 and signaled the end of the "cooperative policy" between China and the Western treaty powers. Previous to the incident, rumours had circulated in Tientsin that the French Sisters of Charity were kidnapping and mutilating Chinese children. Hostility grew and on June 21 the French consul, Henri Fontanier, fired at a crowd of local protesters and nearly killed the district manager, killing his servant. A violent outbreak of xenophobia occured and immediately the consul and some 20 others, mostly French, were mutilated and killed by the raging mob.

Harsh punishment was demanded by Paris and Rome after the incident. European warships were sent to Tientsin and Chinese troops were activated at battle stations. Hostilities were barely avoided after the Chinese government agreed to excute 16 Chinese and the dispatch of an official mission to convey China's apologies to France.