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Anti-Japan protests spread across China

Chinese demonstrators carrying anti-Japan banners and shouting slogans during a protest in Chongqing yesterday. Tens of thousands of people protested in as many as 50 Chinese cities, with some protesters scuffling with police, attacking Japanese cars and torching Japanese-run factories. (PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)

Publication Date : 17-09-2012

 

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda urged Beijing yesterday to protect Japanese nationals, companies and diplomatic buildings from attack as rowdy anti-Japan protests erupted in cities across China in one of the worst outbreaks in years.

Tens of thousands of protesters in as many as 50 Chinese cities, including Hong Kong, took to the streets at the weekend to vent their fury after Japan moved to nationalise a group of disputed islands which it calls Senkaku, and which China claims and names as the Diaoyu Islands.

Protesters scuffled with police and attacked Japanese cars. Some Japanese factories were torched, and there was some looting in what some Japanese media described as the worst unrest seen in four decades since the countries normalised ties in 1972.

In southern Shenzhen city, the police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the huge crowds.

In eastern Qingdao, a dozen Japanese-run factories were broken into, some set ablaze and production lines destroyed, according to Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun.

"I would like to urge the Chinese government to protect their safety," Noda said on Japanese broadcaster NHK.

The Japanese Embassy here has warned its citizens to be careful when going out alone at night or speaking Japanese in public.

The Chinese authorities have beefed up security even as they allow protesters to demonstrate in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

The Japanese Embassy in Beijing yesterday continued to look like it was under siege, surrounded by barricades and police with shields and helmets, and with at least one helicopter flying overhead to monitor the area.

"Chinese people, come on," chanted some of the estimated 1,000 people who marched past the embassy during lunchtime. Many held up pictures of Mao Zedong or banners with bellicose messages like "Wipe out Japan".

An equally large crowd watched on the sidelines, taking pictures and videos of the protest.

Beijing-based businessman Ma Youliang, 46, who has lived in Japan and seen ups and downs in Sino-Japanese ties, said the latest unrest was the worst he could recall.

Japanese politicians have miscalculated, thinking they can capitalise on a period of leadership transition in China, he said. "They have underestimated the Chinese leaders and think it is still the Qing dynasty, when China was weak."

Analyst Wang Xiangsui said the current dispute goes a lot deeper than controversies over Japanese school books that whitewash Japanese atrocities in China or visits by Japanese premiers to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

"Those were about attitudes, but the Diaoyu Islands go back about a hundred years and involve a deep feud between China and Japan," said Professor Wang of the Beijing Aeronautics and Astronautics University.

Japan annexed the islands after it defeated China in the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War.

There could be more rallies tomorrow, the anniversary of the 1931 Manchurian Incident, which Japan used as a pretext to invade China.

 

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