Tokyo urged to take action as anti-Japan protests grow across China
OLD wounds amplified outrage over a seething territorial dispute yesterday as thousands of Chinese protested over Tokyo’s purchase of islands claimed by Beijing and marked the 81st anniversary of a Japanese invasion that China has never forgotten.
China marks every 18 September by sounding sirens to remember a 1931 incident that Japan used as a pretext to invade Manchuria, setting off the brutal occupation of China that ended only at the close of the Second World War. Demonstrations are not routine, but this year, as Chinese fume over last week’s Japanese purchase of long-contested islands in the East China Sea, they spread across the country.
Outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing, thousands of protesters shouted patriotic slogans and demanded boycotts of Japanese goods. Some burned Japanese flags and threw apples, water bottles and eggs at the embassy, which had barricades in place and was heavily guarded by paramilitary police.
“We believe we need to declare war on them because the Japanese devils are too evil. Down with little Japan!” said Wang Guoming, a retired soldier who said he came 400 miles from Linfen in Shanxi province to vent his frustration.
Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported protests in at least 100 cities, and said people threw bricks and rocks at the Japanese consulate in Shenyang in China’s north-east.
China’s authoritarian government rarely allows protests, and the wave of anti-Japanese demonstrations clearly received a degree of official approval.
Many Japanese businesses across China, such as Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Panasonic, shut their doors as a precaution following recent protests that turned violent and saw the torching and looting of Japanese factories and shops.
The nationalist fury was also seen online, where users of search engine Baidu saw a Chinese flag planted on a cartoon image of the contested islands, which China calls the Diaoyus and Japan calls the Senkakus.
The islands, tiny rock outcrops, have been a sore point between China and Japan for decades. Japan has claimed the islands since 1895. The US took jurisdiction of them after the Second World War and turned them over to Japan in 1972.
The disagreement escalated last week when the Japanese government said it was buying some of the islands from their private owner. Japan considers it an attempt to thwart a potentially more inflammatory move by the governor of Tokyo, who had wanted not only to buy the islands but develop them.
Beijing has sent patrol ships inside Japanese-claimed waters around the islands, and some state media have urged Chinese to show their patriotism by boycotting Japanese goods and cancelling travel to Japan.
Protests since Tokyo’s purchase of the islands have been the largest anti-Japanese demonstrations since 2005. They reflect not only China’s opposition to surrendering land it claims, but also generations of Chinese anger over Tokyo’s colonial history.
In Beijing, streams of people marched past the embassy in orderly groups of about 150, herded by police, who urged them to remain peaceful. Some toted posters of Chairman Mao, and many shouted slogans such as: “United”, “Love China”, “Never forget our national shame”.
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