Protests on invasion's anniversary

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2007, 12:00am

Hundreds of university students marched through the streets of Changsha , Hunan province , after a Japanese supermarket chose to celebrate its opening ceremony on the 76th anniversary of the September 18 incident.

The anniversary marks when Japanese troops invaded Shenyang , Liaoning Province .

But Beijing played down the anniversary, anxious to ease tensions in Sino-Japanese relations ahead of pro-Beijing Yasuo Fukuda's likely succession as Japan's prime minister. Mr Fukuda is likely to replace Shinzo Abe.

Hundreds of students gathered in front of the Heiwado supermarket's Dongtang branch around 9am, shouting slogans and holding up banners saying 'Boycott Japanese Goods' and 'Japanese, I want to duel with you'. Dozens of public security officers showed up to maintain order.

The store's opening ceremony was postponed to September 28.

The Japanese invasion of Shenyang on September 18, 1931 - also known as the Mukden incident - set the scene for the later, eight-year-long Second Sino-Japanese war which left hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians dead.

Sirens, horns and bells sounded in Shenyang, Changchun , Xian , Kunming , Tianjin , Hefei , Nanchang , Chengdu and Jinan to commemorate the anniversary yesterday. Thousands of people visited local monuments to the war in provinces including Liaoning, Henan and Heilongjiang .

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday that China and Japan would hold the 10th round of talks on their territorial dispute in the East China Sea late this month in Beijing.

Although government relations have improved, Tong Zeng , the president of the Chinese Civilian Association for Safeguarding the Diaoyu Islands, said many ordinary Chinese people still bore grudges against Japan over lingering issues. They included oil exploitation in the East China Sea, the sovereignty of the Diaoyu islands, compensation for wartime sex slaves, the honouring of war criminals at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine and historical textbooks that glossed over Japanese atrocities.

Mr Tong said mainlanders would protest whenever Japanese firms showed insensitivity to Chinese history. But he said the authorities in Changsha should also have advised the Japanese shop to shift its opening ceremony to September 17 or 19.

In 2005, tens of thousands of people took to streets across the mainland and smashed windows to protest against new history textbook introduced in Japan. However, the Sino-Japanese relationship thawed after Mr Abe visited China in October, his first overseas trip after taking office.