Diaoyu Islands

Protests over Diaoyu islands turn violent outside Japanese embassy

Activists clash with police outside Japanese embassy as anger over islands sweeps mainland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 September, 2012, 3:54am

Protests against Japan's claim to disputed islands in the East China Sea swept China yesterday. Some turned violent, with protesters throwing rocks and bottles at the Japanese embassy in Beijing and clashing with paramilitary police.

More than 2,000 people gathered in front of the embassy, with many trying to break through a metal police barricade only to be pushed back by riot police.

Hundreds of police officers were deployed and roads around the embassy were cordoned off. Helicopters flew overhead, monitoring the situation below.

The rally was the biggest since the Japanese government announced last week it was buying the Diaoyu Islands, which Tokyo calls the Senkakus, from their private owner.

Beijing has roundly rejected the move as an illegal encroachment on its territory, and public anger on the mainland towards Japan has been rising.

The demonstration, though, was much smaller than a protest in 2005, sparked in part by revisions to Japanese history textbooks, which drew more than 10,000 people. But many expect a higher turnout for another rally planned for Tuesday to commemorate the Japanese invasion of China in 1931.

Protesters in Beijing waved the Chinese national flag and chanted "Diaoyu Islands belong to China" and "Down with Japan".

Some threw stones, plastic bottles and eggs at the embassy. Some tried to climb over the metal barricade and enter the embassy grounds. "We should move forward," they shouted.

"The people's army should belong to the people," one protester shouted as he tussled with police.

Several protesters called on China to take a harder line against Japan, with some calling for a declaration of war. "Our government should act more strongly towards the Japanese. They are shameless," said Jiang Baiyi, 76, who came to the embassy at 7.30 am.

Another participant, Gao Feng, said he had travelled from the eastern province of Shandong to take part in the event.

Similar protests occurred in many Chinese cities, with the Japanese broadcaster NHK estimating there were demonstrations in more than 50. Protesters in Hong Kong staged a small demonstration.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Tokyo would demand Beijing ensure the safety of Japanese nationals on the mainland.

Additional reporting by Mimi Lau