18 September 2012
(c) 2012 Kyodo News
BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Sept. 18 -- The anniversary Tuesday of a 1931 incident that led to Japan's occupation of northeastern China fueled anti-Japan sentiment across China, sparking angry protests in at least 125 cities over Tokyo's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands claimed by Beijing.
Chinese authorities beefed up security at the sites of demonstrations and there were no reports Tuesday of arson or looting of Japanese commercial properties as seen in various Chinese cities over the weekend.
The largest anti-Japan protests occurred in Shanghai, where an estimated 17,000 people took part in waves of marches near the Japanese Consulate General, waving Chinese flags and shouting anti-Japanese slogans.
"Down with Japanese imperialism," "Boycott Japanese products," "Destroy Japan and retrieve Okinawa," the protesters shouted.
Slogans such as "Never forget our national humiliation" and "Never forget 9.18" were also shouted, referring to the start of the Mukden Incident, or Manchurian Incident, in which Japanese military officers blew up a portion of a Japanese railroad in southern Manchuria as a pretext for invading northeastern China.
In Shenyang, Liaoning Province, where the 1931 incident occurred, an estimated 8,000 protesters gathered outside the Japanese Consulate General, burning Japanese flags and hurling stones and bricks into the consulate compound.
According to diplomatic sources, Chinese authorities deployed 5,000 security personnel around the consulate building but made no efforts to stop protesters from hurling stones and bricks at it.
About 70 windows in the building were broken during a five-hour barrage of stone-throwing, the sources said.
In Beijing, a total of about 10,000 people protested in front of the Japanese Embassy throughout the day. Some protesters burned photos of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, while others hurled eggs and plastic bottles into the embassy compound.
The embassy said six windows were shattered by metal and glass balls that the crowds hurled inside the embassy compound.
The Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday lodged a protest with China's Foreign Ministry over the damage to windows at the Beijing embassy and the Shenyang consulate, the embassy said.
"Chinese people are expressing their strong indignation. They took to the streets and protested against the illegal purchase of the Diaoyu Islands by the Japanese government," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, referring to the Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea by their Chinese name.
"The Chinese government and the people will never sit idly by watching this territorial sovereignty being infringed upon," Hong told a regular news briefing in Beijing. "The Japanese action of illegal purchase of the Diaoyu Islands is doomed to failure."
Hong condemned the landing on the islands on Tuesday by two Japanese men, calling it a "serious provocation."
Chinese media reported about 1,000 Chinese fishing boats are expected to arrive in waters near the islands later Tuesday or Wednesday in what appears to be further action by Beijing over Japan's nationalization of the islands.
"China reserves the right to take further actions," Hong said.
Tensions have escalated between the two countries in the wake of the Japanese government's announcement on Sept. 11 that it put the islands under state control by signing a purchase contract with the owner of three of them, a Japanese individual.
Beijing authorities have recommended that about 800 Japanese businesses in the capital's Chaoyang District not operate Tuesday.
Japanese schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao were closed Tuesday for safety reasons. The Japanese schools in Beijing and Shanghai say they will also close on Wednesday
Chinese authorities deployed a total of 300,000 security personnel across the country in a bid to ensure the safety of Japanese institutions and establishments, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
The protests came in response to calls on Internet sites to stage protests on the anniversary. It was the eighth straight day that Chinese have staged such protests in Beijing and Shanghai.
In the southern city of Guangzhou, protesters clashed with police outside the Japanese Consulate General as they tried to push their way inside the premises, according to Hong Kong media reports. Eventually, officials from the Japanese consulate received a letter from three protesters, Hong Kong's Cable TV said.
In Shenzhen, protesters vandalized a local Japanese-style restaurant even though the owners had covered the front door with a huge Chinese flag.
In Hong Kong, hundreds of people from at least 12 groups and political parties staged protests outside the Japanese Consulate General.
The Chinese government has given its tacit approval for the public to stage anti-Japan demonstrations -- but in "a rational and lawful manner" -- while official media have kept running anti-Japan reports and broadcasts.
Some of the protests on Saturday and Sunday involved looting and arson targeting Japanese factories, stores and restaurants operating in China.
In some cities, anti-Japan protests turned into antigovernment, antiparty demonstrations instead, striking out at the Communist Party's one-party rule, bureaucratic corruption, the widening wealth gap and scarce jobs for university graduates.
Beijing claims the islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times, while Japan maintains the Senkakus are an integral part of Japanese territory and that there are no territorial disputes between the two countries.
Taiwan also claims sovereignty over the islands, which are known as Tiaoyutai to the Taiwanese.