Clampdown on Japan Protests

A wave of nationalist sentiment rocks China following an incident in the East China Sea.

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wuhanjapan305.jpg Demonstrators hold an anti-Japanese rally in Wuhan, Oct. 18, 2010.
Photo provided by volunteer

HONG KONG—Chinese police have moved in to halt anti-Japanese protests over a territorial dispute as Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on Beijing to guarantee the safety of Japanese companies and citizens.

The latest in three days of consecutive nationwide protests on Oct. 18 came in response to Japan's detention last month of a Chinese fishing boat captain near a disputed group of islands in the East China Sea.

Official media reports said that authorities had dispatched around 1,000 armed police to the central Chinese city of Wuhan after a fresh march against Japanese goods in a busy downtown area. The police detained a number of "trouble-makers."

Carrying banners reading "Against government buying Japanese goods" and "Japanese cars are shoddily made," around 100 protesters left their rallying point in Wuhan's Luxiang Square in the early afternoon. However, netizens said from the scene that protests were still visible on the streets as night fell.

"There were a lot of protesters," said an employee who answered the phone at a hotel along the marchers' route. "There were also a lot of police and armed police."

"This made it hard to move around, and there were traffic jams in a lot of places," the employee said. "There are still a lot of them, but they started to disperse at around 7 p.m."

A Wuhan resident surnamed Li confirmed that large numbers of people were on the streets.

"Yes, there really are a lot of people here," he said. "A lot of roads are blocked to traffic now ... They are still blocked."

Japanese Prime Minister Kan has called the protests “regrettable” while the Chinese government described the anti-Japanese sentiment as “understandable," even as it called on the public to express their outrage in a rational way, news agencies reported.

Kan told parliament that the Japanese government "has expressed its regret over the demonstrations against Japan," adding that Tokyo has asked "that Japanese nationals and companies be protected."

Sichuan protests

Chinese demonstrators hold signs calling for the boycott of Japanese products in Chengdu, Oct. 17, 2010. Credit: Photo submitted by netizen
Credit: Photo submitted by netizen
Security meanwhile remained tight in the southwestern province of Sichuan, where large-scale anti-Japan protests took place over the weekend.

Around 100 police guarded the Japanese Ito-Yokado department store in Chengdu, which had its windows smashed during Saturday's protest, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

"The protests are over today," said a Chengdu resident surnamed Jiang. "If people smashed things, it's because they got carried away in the mood," she added.

Security was also tight in the Sichuan city of Mianyang, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Chengdu, with truckloads of armed police patrolling the area.

An official who answered the phone at the news department of Mianyang city confirmed demonstrations had taken place there too.

"There were several hundred people protesting," he said. "But there were also a large number of bystanders."

"I think there were probably a few vehicles that got smashed, but it wasn't a really serious incident," the official said.

The protests erupted Saturday with more than 10,000 people in total participating despite moves by the two neighboring countries to ease strains over competing claims for the islands.

The sometimes violent demonstrations were believed to be the largest in more than five years, and included protests and marches in Chengdu, Xi’an, Zhengzhou, and Hangzhou.

Observers had thought ties were on the mend after Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Kan held a surprise meeting this month in Brussels.

Reported by Ding Xiao for RFA's Mandarin service and by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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