Diaoyu Islands

Chinese employees of Japanese businesses caught in crossfire

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 3:08pm

Violent protests over the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea have left some Chinese employees of Japanese businesses on the mainland with grave concerns for their personal safety and job security.

The aggressive protests of recent days saw the torching of a major Honda dealership in the Huangdao district of Qingdao on Saturday, which the company estimated caused nearly 100 million yuan (HK$122.8 million) in losses.

A dealership employee posted more than 20 photos in his blog showing burned vehicles and beds in the charred dealership complex and his dormitory, with shots of locals combing the site for valuables the next day.

The 24-year-old had only been working at the dealership for four days when it was torched.

He has since left the district for a new job, but was so scared about being identified that he spent Tuesday deleting his postings about the protests from his website.

"I feel much more at peace now," he said. "But I simply wanted to use the photos to show how sorry I felt for the company, even though I'd only been with the company for four days."

Violence towards Japanese businesses has forced manufacturers, shops and supermarkets that fear being targeted to suspend operations, while some Japanese nationals have fled the mainland.

Cherry Zhou, a translator for a Japanese logistics company in Qingdao, said her Japanese manager, who was on vacation in his home country, had decided not to return to the mainland office pending a review of the situation.

Other Japanese colleagues were also considering leaving China if the situation continued to deteriorate. Zhou said she was shocked by the violent protests and the extent of damage at the Honda dealership and at two Jusco supermarkets in Qingdao.

She was particularly saddened when her Japanese colleagues asked whether the protesters were the same Chinese they had grown to know so well.

Yang Xiao , a Toyota dealer from Zhejiang , said car sales had been bad since the beginning of the year due to the weak economy. The anti-Japanese protests had come at a bad time, with one customer putting a purchase on hold after reports of Japanese-branded vehicles being targeted in street attacks.

Yang said his decision to sell Japanese cars had no relation to his stance over the Diaoyu Islands, and urged Chinese people to exercise their right to protest in a non-violent way.

"Like a lot of the businesses attacked by protesters, our dealership is Chinese in almost every aspect - the investment, the premises and the people managing it - but only under a Japanese brand," he said.