Anti-Japan protests held across China
Officials try to stop demonstrations over boat dispute
BEIJING — Protesters in several cities across China marked a politically sensitive anniversary yesterday with anti-Japan chants and banners, as authorities tried to stop anger over a diplomatic spat between the Asian giants from getting out of control.
As some chanted “Wipe out the Japanese devils!’’ and stamped on Japanese flags, China’s Foreign Ministry called for calm.
Ever-present anti-Japanese sentiment in China has been inflamed in recent weeks by Japan’s arrest of a Chinese captain after his fishing boat collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels near islands claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing. Japan has returned the boat and its crew, but holds the captain. China has demanded his release.
China’s ruling Communist Party partly encourages anti-Japanese sentiment to burnish its nationalist credentials, but it remains obsessed with social stability and had worked in recent days to keep people from demonstrating yesterday, the anniversary of the start of a brutal Japanese invasion in 1931.
Protests in at least five cities drew crowds as large as several hundred, but officials’ efforts largely succeeded.
Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing shouted “down with Japan,’’ and held signs saying “Get out of the Diaoyu Islands,’’ but were moved away by police within an hour. They later were allowed to pass by in small groups, while the rest marched outside a police cordon. The disputed islands are known as Diaoyu or Diaoyutai in Chinese, and as Senkaku in Japan.
In Shanghai, two men hung a banner outside the Japanese consulate saying “The Diaoyu islands belong to China . . . return our captain.’’ Police ushered people away after a crowd of about 50 gathered.
“We came here to appeal for fairness and for the right to ask for our captain back. We regret the government’s weakness in diplomacy,’’ said one of the men, Li Chunguang. He wore a T-shirt portraying revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.
In the southern city of Shenzhen, several hundred people gathered at a public square to call for a boycott of Japanese goods and sing the Chinese national anthem, Hong Kong’s radio RTHK reported.
Hong Kong’s Cable TV showed a police officer trying to grab a Chinese flag displayed by protesters. RTHK said police detained several demonstrators.
Yesterday marked the anniversary of the 1931 “Mukden Incident’’ that led to the Japanese occupation of China’s northeast and the invasion and conquest of much of the country.