Police stop anti-Japan protests in bigger Guangdong cities

Riot officers block demonstrators in the bigger Guangdong cities, but protesters in second-tier towns have their way

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 September, 2012, 2:59am

Anti-Japan demonstrations took an unusual turn in Guangdong yesterday, with protests in key cities met by a strong police presence while those in smaller cities were allowed to run their course.

Thousands of people spilled onto the streets in second-tier cities such as Dongguan and Zhuhai, vandalising Japanese cars and restaurants.

Information on the website of the Japanese consulate in Guangzhou said the demonstrations in Dongguan and Zhuhai appeared to have been planned.

Protests in other cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen in Fujian province and Haikou in Hainan province are scheduled to take place today.

In Dongguan, protesters marched downtown to Changan Street, breaking into a shuttered sushi restaurant and wrecking its interior. They threw rocks into the restaurant while burning Japanese flags outside. Police standing nearby did not interfere. Other Japanese restaurants and shops reported similar attacks.

Hong Kong television channels quoted some protesters as saying they were allowed a day off by their factory employers to participate in the protest.

In Zhuhai, demonstrators gathered in the downtown Gongbei district at about 9am. They broke through three police roadblocks and, according to Hong Kong-based RTHK, threw rocks and water bottles at Japanese cars parked on roadsides. Police were seen distributing water to the demonstrators.

In Guangzhou, about 50 protesters marched to the Japanese consulate from the nearby Taojin subway station around 10am. But intense police pressure ended the protest after about an hour.

Dr Peng Peng, a senior researcher with the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing wanted to keep the unrest from spiralling out of control.

"I have learned that authorities across Guangdong have been briefed that the central government does not want protest sentiment to go overboard. The priority is to maintain social stability before the 18th party congress," Peng said.

In Hong Kong, the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands will march today from Victoria Park to the Japanese consulate at One Exchange Square in Central.

Lo Chau, owner of the vessel that took a crew of activists to the disputed islands to back Chinese sovereignty last month, said he was waiting for the Marine Department to issue a permit for the ship to sail for repairs before the group journeys to the Diaoyus again on the 18th to mark Japan's invasion of north China in 1931.

Lo said the crew may set sail even without a permit.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok did not comment on whether a permit would be issued, but said enforcement action would be taken if required.