The anniversary Tuesday of a 1931 incident that led to Japan’s occupation of northeastern China fueled anti-Japan sentiment across the country, sparking protests in at least 100 cities where people denounced Tokyo’s recent nationalization of the Senkaku Islands claimed by Beijing.
As armed police tightened security around the Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai, thousands of protesters chanted slogans such as “Beat Japanese imperialism,” “Boycott Japanese products” and “Destroy Japan and retrieve Okinawa.”
Some shouted “Never forget our national humiliation. Never forget 9.18,” 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, which Japan used as a pretext for invading northeastern China.
A total of 16,000 people took part in waves of anti-Japan protests that occurred throughout the day in Shanghai.
About 4,500 gathered around the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, where the 1931 incident occurred. Protesters hurled stones and bricks into the consul compound, breaking windows. Others burned Japanese flags.
In Beijing, about 5,000 people protested in front of the Japanese Embassy. Some burned photos of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, while others hurled eggs and plastic bottles into the embassy compound. Beijing authorities advised about 800 Japanese businesses in the capital’s Chaoyang District to close on Tuesday. Similarly, schools for Japanese students in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao were closed for safety reasons.
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 protests came in response to calls on Internet sites to stage rallies in more than 50 cities on the anniversary. It was the eighth straight day protests have been staged in Beijing and Shanghai. About 1,000 Chinese fishing boats are reportedly heading to waters near the islands in what appears to be further action by Beijing following Japan’s nationalization of the islands.
Commenting on the outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment, the Global Times wrote, “The catastrophe that started 81 years ago saw China suffer the worst humiliation by Japan.”
Though World War II ended with Japan’s surrender in 1945, “The alarm has been raised again surrounding the recent escalation of the Diaoyu issue,” the paper said in an editorial, referring to the Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea by their Chinese name.
“Many are questioning whether another war will break out between China and Japan,” it said. Meanwhile, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said Tuesday that the Chinese military is paying close attention to the situation on the Senkakus, adding that it reserved the right to take further action, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
“That being said, we still hope for a peaceful and negotiated solution to this issue and we hope to work together and work well with the Japanese government properly handling this dispute,” Liang said in a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta after a meeting in Beijing.
Panetta said East Asia maritime issues should be resolved via peaceful diplomatic means, and called for calm and restraint on all sides, according to Xinhua. Chinese police deployed a total of 300,000 armed forces across the county 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.
Tensions have escalated between Japan and China 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.
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 vandalism, 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 Senkaku Islands 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.