TERRITORIAL DISPUTES
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Diaoyu Islands

Two men detained for ripping flag off Japanese ambassador's car

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2012, 2:41am

Police detained two men suspected of ripping a Japanese flag from a limousine carrying the Japanese ambassador in Beijing.

The men - a 23-year-old from Hebei and a 25-year-old from Heilongjiang - were not charged with a criminal offence but placed in administrative detention. Such terms usually last for up to 15 days. A third man, who was driving the car that forced Uichiro Niwa's car to stop, received a warning.

Tensions have run high since activists from both countries planted flags last month on the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which the Japanese call the Senkakus.

Japan's Jiji Press quoted Chinese public security sources who stressed that the attack appeared impulsive, rather than a premeditated plot that could justify harsher punishment.

Da Zhigang, professor of Japanese studies at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said the punishment appeared appropriate given the circumstances. Da said both Beijing and Tokyo wanted to play down their disagreement.

"First, there is no evidence suggesting it was a pre-planned attack," Da said. "And the [Beijing] authorities have to take into account public sentiment. Public anger would be triggered if the punishment was severe."

A spokesman for Niwa said the Japanese embassy was notified yesterday of the result of the investigation. The embassy regretted the incident and called for the prevention of similar incidents and assurance of the safety of Japanese nationals in China.

Meanwhile, Beijing lodged a formal protest with Japan over a Tokyo metropolitan government party's trip this week to survey the islands in preparation for buying them from their private Japanese owners.