Locals take to the streets in show of solidarity with mainland protesters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 April, 2005, 12:00am

In a rare display of nationalism, thousands of Hong Kong people took to the streets yesterday to denounce Japanese wartime atrocities, echoing the spate of anti-Japan protests on the mainland.

The Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, which organised the rally, said more than 12,000 people took part. Police estimated 5,000.

Unlike anti-Japanese rallies on the mainland, which descended into rampages over the past week, Hong Kong protesters stayed calm as they made their way past Japanese businesses and restaurants. The rally started at 3.30pm with protesters marching from Victoria Park to the Central Government Offices, chanting slogans to denounce Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, its claim to the Diaoyu Islands, and its supposed whitewashing of its wartime atrocities in textbooks.

Among the protesters were second world war survivors, parents with young children, and a large group of young people who occupied the front ranks of the march.

Lydia Yu, a 19-year-old student from Zhejiang who is studying at the Baptist University, said dozens of mainland students at her university joined the protest.

Shey Yu-lu, 74, whose parents were killed in the war, started to march at Victoria Park but gave up at Wan Chai. 'I was a war orphan and I was so angry with Japan,' he said. 'But I'm too tired now.'

Although the protest passed Japanese department store Mitsukoshi in Causeway Bay and fast-food chain Yoshinoya in Wan Chai, protesters kept their cool. There was an obvious police presence outside the Japanese businesses.

The protest ended after an effigy of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was burned outside the Central Government Offices at 6.30pm.

Committee chairman Or Wah said he was happy with the orderly protest and that the number of participants exceeded their estimate.

'This shows Hong Kong people have a strong sentiment against Japan's behaviour,' he said.

There was some discord within the protesters' ranks. Veteran activist Szeto Wah was booed when he referred to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in a speech outside the offices.