Japan yesterday accused the media of blowing the row over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands out of proportion. Japanese Consul-General in Hong Kong Hideaki Ueda reiterated his Government's claims that the islands were part of Japanese territory and told media not 'to aggravate' the issue. He was commenting after being asked about an incident on Wednesday when a Taiwanese vessel carrying reporters from Chinese-language newspapers was ordered to leave by a Japanese gunboat after sailing within three miles of the islands Mr Ueda said: 'The Hong Kong media should not artificially make the issue bigger. 'You should report it objectively . . . conflict over the Diaoyu Islands has existed for a long time.' The row erupted when Japanese activists built a lighthouse on the islands which China and Taiwan also claim sovereignty over. Mr Ueda said those who wanted to go to the islands should apply for a Japanese visa. His remarks drew a flurry of criticism and more than 40 protesters marched to the consulate office in Exchange Square from the Cenotaph in Central yesterday afternoon. Among them were leaders of the Democratic Party and the newly-formed coalition, the Committee for Protection of the Diaoyu Islands. Demonstrators chanted slogans and waved banners reading 'Down with Japanese militarism' and 'The Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory.' 'We protest strongly against Japan erecting a lighthouse on our soil,' said legislator Dr Yeung Sum. 'They have gone too far this time in ordering our reporters away from our territory.' Committee spokesman Tsang Kin-shing said shipping magnate and chief executive front-runner Tung Chee-hwa had turned down his request to loan a ship to take protesters to the islands to dismantle the lighthouse. 'He said I should leave it to the Chinese Government,' said Mr Tsang. 'He told me to stay in Hong Kong and help more people.' Spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry Shen Guofang condemned Japan yesterday, but refused to disclose what action would be taken. 'We think that this dispute should be solved in a normal and peaceful way,' said Mr Shen. Mr Shen would not comment on whether Beijing would provide military protection for Hong Kong journalists who have said they want to visit the Diaoyu Islands.