Police use force to disperse anti-Japanese protesters in Dongguan

In a move to stop nationalist sentiment getting out of hand,riot police use force to disperse demonstrators in Dongguan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2012, 6:35am

Riot police yesterday used force to disperse hundreds of antiJapanese protesters in an apparent move to stop any nationalist sentiment getting out of hand in the industrial city of Dongguan, near Guangzhou.

Yesterday's crackdown was in marked contrast to recent demonstrations that appeared to have the tacit support of the authorities.

About 500 protesters waving Chinese flags and chanting anti-Japanese slogans set off from the city centre at 1pm along busy Hongfu Road towards Dongguan city government plaza, where they were blocked by police.

Riot police soon began to round up the crowd, which led to scuffles with angry protesters. Some in the crowd were seen throwing water bottles and tree branches at police.

The protest came a day after Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Guangdong on Friday and Saturday.

A 25-year-old man who was visiting Dongguan with a friend from a town outside the city was severely beaten by police, said the 17-year-old friend.

"We were just curious to see what was happening and suddenly we were rounded up by police carrying shields and long black batons," she said, sobbing. Her green top was stained with her friend's blood.

The distraught girl was looking for a doctor and lost track of her friend in the chaos.

"A policeman, without warning, hit my friend's head with his baton. He was covered in blood. But they still beat him even though he was already bleeding," she said. "The next thing I knew I was pushed away by police. I can't find my friend and I can't find a doctor. I don't know what to do."

The plaza was soon filled with hundreds of police who began to disperse the crowd after a 30-minute rally. Several men were seen being led away.

An attempt by about 300 protesters to take to the streets at about 11am was stopped by police. Some of them spilled into Hongfu Road and chanted slogans outside every Japanese restaurant they saw. But there was no vandalism reported.

The previous Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Guangzhou and Shenzhen with tacit government permission and roads were sealed off to make way for the marchers. Shenzhen police intervened only when the demonstration turned violent in the afternoon, as Japanese-named businesses and cars were vandalised.

Peng Peng , a researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said it was both China and Japan's wish to contain swelling nationalist sentiment as both countries worked towards resolving the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands.

"The authorities felt the need to contain today's protest as they did not want to see further chaos," Peng said. "For cities like Dongguan, many businesses are struggling and many migrant workers are jobless. Their simmering anger could easily grow and spark other conflicts that would be hard to control."

A 38-year-old shop owner in Dongguan said he received a chat group message a week ago calling on people to demonstrate yesterday.

"But the activity was cancelled four days ago after more than 20,000 people signed up for it. The organiser feared it would be out of control," he said, adding that many still showed up despite the cancellation.

"I saw police lead seven men away before noon when they tried to march. Their flags and banners were also confiscated."

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters yesterday turned out in Haikou , the capital of Hainan island province, and Zhuji city in Zhejiang province.

Holding banners proclaiming that "Diaoyu Islands belong to China", and chanting slogans such as, "Boycott japanese products", hundreds of residents rallied around Pearl Plaza in the centre of Haikou at 9.30am before they marched along several city streets.

Online postings said anti-Japanese protests also broke out in Zhuji city in Zhejiang.

Additional reporting by Choi Chi-yuk