Colonial Past Fuels Anger

Chinese crowds demonstrate against Japan on a sensitive anniversary.
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A riot policeman directs protesters in Chengdu as they march carrying an anti-Japanese banner and a Mao portrait, Sept. 16, 2012.
A riot policeman directs protesters in Chengdu as they march carrying an anti-Japanese banner and a Mao portrait, Sept. 16, 2012.

Anti-Japan protests continued across China on Tuesday as the country marked a sensitive military anniversary, amid warnings from Beijing that it could take "further action" over a disputed island chain in the East China Sea.

In the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning, where the 1931 "Mukden Incident" heralded the Japanese invasion of China, thousands marched to the Japanese consulate in Shenyang, waving banners recalling Chinese shame and anger at Japan's colonial past.

The crowd threw bricks, smashing windows in the building, and holding up placards, but were kept away from the consulate building by riot police.

Japanese restaurants in the neighborhood were also under armed guard, while stores selling Japanese goods appeared damaged, residents said.

"The crowds just keep coming," said the proprietor of one Japanese restaurant in the district. "It was pretty scary today; we haven't been able to open for business."

"The windows have all been smashed with bricks; they came rushing at us from across the street," she said. "If the riot police hadn't been there to beat them up, things could have gotten really serious."

Organized protests

However, there were signs that not all of the protests were spontaneous outbursts of popular anger.

Some demonstrators in Guangzhou told Hong Kong media the protests had been organized by their company.

And Sichuan-based academic Tie Liu said he was against such a raw display of patriotism, which he blamed on the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"I told my son that he must not on any account go out on the streets," Tie said. "This is bringing chaos to our country, and it will disturb the 18th Party Congress and cause havoc in China."

"The Chinese government should apologize to the Chinese people, because they have incited this chaos, and supported the masses in their acts of violence on the streets."

"You can see in a lot of places that there are plainclothes cops mixed up with the crowds.... This should be solved through diplomatic means; by sitting down and talking."


Some protesters appeared full of genuine anger and called for a widespread boycott of Japanese goods, in a movement that has already had an impact on economic ties between Asia's two largest economies.

"Don't buy Japanese goods," one protester said on Hong Kong television. "We are allowing them to save up our renminbi (yuan) to buy bullets instead, which will come back to hit us one day."

Hundreds of Japanese shops and businesses remained shuttered in Chinese cities on Tuesday following attacks in recent days, and protesters once more converged on the Japanese embassy in Beijing, chanting slogans, waving Chinese flags and throwing water bottles over the perimeter fence.

"Wipe out all Japanese dogs," read one banner held up by one of thousands of protesters marching on the embassy. Photos posted online showed large numbers of armed police deployed around the embassy, while a foreign ministry spokesman in Tokyo said some of its windows had been smashed.

'Rational patriotism'

Beijing police sent out mass text messages to residents, warning that they should "express their patriotism in a rational manner," but the authorities made no concerted move to disperse protesters, focusing instead on protecting innocent bystanders and diplomatic missions.

And an employee surnamed Huang who answered the phone at municipal government offices in the southern city of Zhuhai said a similar directive had been sent there by higher levels of government.

"Recently, there was a directive from the provincial government, saying that we should promote 'rational patriotism,' and stuff like that," Huang said.

However, defense minister Gen. Liang Guanglie said on Tuesday that Beijing reserves the right to take further action against Japan, which should bear full responsibility for the dispute,  which has triggered a wave of violent protests against anything Japanese in cities across China.

Liang called on Tokyo to "undo its mistakes and come back to the right track of negotiations."

Island dispute

The Japanese government's purchase last week of the uninhabited string of islands--known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China--fueled bilateral tensions and prompted a group of Chinese coastal patrol vessels and fishing boats to sail to the waters near the islands in protest.

Liang told U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that China was "resolutely opposed" to the islands' inclusion within the terms of the U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty, the agreement signed in 1951 as the U.S. helped the island nation rebuild after World War II.

Liang said China hopes the U.S. will honor its commitment to maintain a neutral stance over the issue, which has dominated Panetta's week-long tour of the Asia-Pacific region.

Their meeting also came as the U.S. signed an agreement to set up a second missile-defense radar system in Japan, a move China is likely to view as another effort by the U.S. to boost its Asia-Pacific presence.

Out at sea, two Japanese activists landed on the islands, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, prompting a diplomatic protest from Beijing.

The protest landing came as three Chinese maritime surveillance ships briefly entered the waters around the disputed islets on Tuesday, further raising tensions in the second such incident since Friday, although they and seven other nearby ships had left the area by late evening.

Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by China's bitter memories of Japan's military aggression in the 1930s and 1940s and present rivalry over resources - the islands are believed to be surrounded by energy-rich waters.

Rowdy protests sprang up in other major cities including Shanghai, raising the risk they could get out of hand and backfire on Beijing, which has given tacit approval to them through China's usually tightly controlled state media.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service and by Qiao Long and Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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