Sirens mark Japan's invasion
Grand ceremonies were held in Shenyang and other Chinese cities yesterday to mark the 80th anniversary of the Mukden Incident - the day Japan invaded China in 1931 and the start of 14 years of occupation - while unofficial commemoration activities were strictly controlled.
The official ceremony in Shenyang, where the Mukden Incident occurred, was the largest in years. The government was wary that unofficial recognition of the anniversary could get out of control and turn into anti-Japanese protests, analysts said.
Some activists said that their plans to hold unofficial activities were thwarted by authorities, and some activists were even briefly detained.
The attack on September 18, 1931, was a precursor to the second Sino-Japanese war, and is also known as the Manchurian Incident, or the 918 Incident in Chinese.
In Shenyang, where the Japanese army started its assault 80 years ago, sirens sounded at 9.18am and lasted three minutes. Xinhua said that more than 1,000 people from the central and local governments, the People's Liberation Army and others invited guests gathered at the square in front of the September 18 Historical Museum in the city for the annual commemoration, which began in 1995.
Two minutes before the air sirens, a bell was struck at the museum to remind people of the national humiliation. As the sirens wailed, drivers on the city's streets pulled over their vehicles and blew their horns in unison.
Similar ceremonies were staged by the government in the cities of Beijing, Changchun, Harbin, Dalian, Xian, Hohhot, Nanjing and Haikou.
The leader of the China Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, Zhang Likun, who originally planned to organise memorial ceremonies in Beijing and Shengyang on Saturday and yesterday, said Beijing police had warned all federation members to stop commemorative activities in the capital.
'We planned to stage a memorial ceremony at Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing's countryside on Saturday morning and then get on the train to Shenyang, where we would have had another rite on Sunday,' said Zhang, who announced his plan on the internet.
'But several days ago, Beijing police officers came to my home and told me that all non-official memorials were strictly banned in the capital because of the importance of social stability.'
Zhang said that others who signed up for his trip had also been warned by local authorities.
He said the government should let the public hold their own remembrance activities. 'We organised such a trip just because our government has done so little to commemorate such a painful and shameful day to all Chinese.'
A number of people attempted to burn the Japanese flag outside the museum yesterday, but they were taken away by police and briefly detained.
On September 18, 1931, Japan's Kwantung Army - whose presence had been growing in Manchuria since the end of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 - blew up a section of the South Manchurian Railroad in Mukden and blamed Chinese dissidents, providing an excuse for the Japanese annexation of Manchuria's three provinces.
Gao Haikuan, a specialist in Northeast Asian security with the China Association for International Friendly Contact, said Beijing did not want anti-Japanese sentiment to be stirred up.
'The Chinese government now has more important issues to deal with as our international position is rising. We don't want to just focus on Sino-Japanese relations, because we have to pay more attention to domestic problems and other overseas interests,' he said.
Sino-Japanese relations were severely damaged by a dispute over Japan's arrest of Zhan Qixiong, a Chinese trawler captain, in September last year after his fishing boat and a Japanese warship collided near the disputed Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands. Zhan's release three weeks later eased the strained ties.
The People's Daily published an editorial yesterday under the title of 'Never Forget National Humiliation, Join up for National Renaissance', in memory of the incident. It said that only when China is rich and strong that it will not be invaded by foreign powers.