Diaoyus backlash stalls Nagoya consulate project

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 December, 2010, 12:00am

The sale of a plot of land for a new Chinese consulate in the city of Nagoya in central Japan has been frozen due to the fierce opposition of residents.

Tempers are running high in Japan's third-largest city in the wake of the collision between a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese Coast Guard vessel off the Senkaku Islands in September. China refers to the islands as the Diaoyus.

The lingering resentment over that issue - combined with what is seen as Beijing flexing its economic and military muscles in the region - has triggered a backlash.

The local bureau of the Finance Ministry had requested bids for a 31,000-square-metre site alongside Nagoya Castle in April. The Consulate General of China applied to build on 10,000 sqmetres of the site, while a university had applied to develop the rest, with a decision due to be signed before the end of the fiscal year in March.

Deteriorating bilateral ties, despite more conciliatory gestures in recent weeks, appear to have scuppered that plan.

'There are many problems between Japan and China at the moment, such as Beijing laying claim to the Senkaku Islands and the dispute over gas deposits in the East China Sea, so it is not a surprise that there are bad feelings here,' said Hiroyasu Inoue, who has been helping to rally opposition to the plan.

'The Chinese want to buy one of the best plots of land in all of Nagoya, right next to the castle and close to City Hall, but I don't know why they think they need so much space.'

Reiko Hayashi has been gathering signatures for a petition against the sale of the land to China and has collected well over 10,000 names so far.

'The Chinese do not listen to the rules in international disputes,' she said. 'We cannot accept the sale of this land to a country that we are involved in a territorial dispute with.

'There are a lot of Chinese people coming to Nagoya now and there will be more problems between them and Japanese people. And I have no idea why they would want a new consulate that is three times the size of the one they have here already.'

According to a recent poll by Japan's Cabinet Office, nearly 78 per cent of Japanese say they do not 'feel close' to China - a rise of more than 19 points on the previous year and the worst figure since 1978, when the survey was first conducted.

The local Finance Ministry bureau has received dozens of messages from people opposed to selling the land to China and has opted to suspend the sale indefinitely.

Local authorities in Niigata previously suspended a plan to sell a plot of land to the Chinese consulate in that city for the same reason.

Professor Shi Yinhong , an international relations specialist at Renmin University in Beijing, said yesterday that the growing Japanese hostility against Chinese after the collision between a Chinese trawler and Japanese military vessels in September was a worrying sign.

'What the opinion survey shows, along with another opinion poll which says up to 87 per cent of the respondents think China is untrustworthy, is something deserves our deepest concern,' Shi said.

Additional reporting by Choi Chi-yuk