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Wave of protests in cities in China

Publication Date : 19-09-2012


New feuds and old hatreds between neighbours China and Japan were stirred up yesterday, as tens of thousands of people in China marked the anniversary of an event that symbolised Japanese aggression and Chinese humiliation amid an escalating row over strategic turf.

Cities across China from Guangzhou to Wenzhou and Shanghai saw a fresh wave of protests against Japan's move to strengthen control by buying the Senkaku islands, even as some Japanese hit back by landing on the islets or throwing smoke bombs at the Chinese embassy in Fukuoka, Japan.

China also claims these East China Sea isles, which it calls Diaoyu.

In Beijing, protests took place in front of the Japanese embassy for the eighth day in a row since Japan signed a deal to buy part of the island chain.

Demonstrators, mainly men who looked to be in their 20s and 30s, pumped their fists, sang the Chinese national anthem and held up banners with messages like "Little Japan, get out of Diaoyu Islands!" and "Don't forget 918".

Sirens were sounded at 9:18am yesterday from north-east Liaoning to south-west Yunnan, as a reminder of the Manchurian, or Mukden, Incident.

On Sept18, 1931, Japan tried to blow up a railroad near Mukden - now Shenyang in Liaoning - blaming it on the Chinese, and used it as an excuse to invade Manchuria, north-east China.

In Beijing, groups walked up and down Liangmaqiao Road in front of the embassy as police with loudhailers kept order. "Lower the flag!" some shouted as plastic bottles were hurled into the diplomatic compound.

Wang Huifang, 74, who had made her way from adjacent Hebei province to join the protests in the Chinese capital, said: "We should resolutely smash Japanese imperialism."

Many people in her village died during the Japanese occupation, she told reporters. "We should bring Japan to task for its wartime crimes."

In Taiwan, which also lays claim to the isles and calls them Diaoyutai, activists burnt a Japanese flag outside the legislature. Taiwanese artist Jay Chou was one of 260 artists, including singer Faye Wong and actor Chow Yun-Fat, who signed a petition to support China over the isles spat.

Activists from Taiwan and Hong Kong are planning to sail to the disputed islands, joining the more than 1,000 fishing ships from provinces like coastal Zhejiang and Fujian that have set off for the area, according to the Chinese media.

The row has even spilled onto the badminton courts, with China withdrawing its shuttlers from this week's Japan Open in Tokyo.

As Sino-Japan ties hit what some analysts say is the lowest point since both countries normalised relations in 1972, visiting United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta called for cool heads.

It is not in any country's interest to see the spat escalate into conflict and disrupt regional peace and stability, Panetta said, on his first visit to Beijing as defence chief.

He called for more Sino-US military exchanges, and said the US would invite China to send a ship to take part in a major maritime exercise in 2014.


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