Anti-Japanese protests flared in the territory yesterday as local groups stepped up their campaign against Tokyo's claimed sovereignty of the disputed Diaoyu Islands. Activists from across Hong Kong's political spectrum staged angry protests outside the Japanese Consulate and the Xinhua (New China News Agency) office, demanding that Tokyo withdraw from the archipelago. The dispute even prompted the unlikely sight of legislator Szeto Wah, regarded as a subversive by China, leading a delegation of Democrats into Xinhua's Happy Valley headquarters to hand in a petition. However, Japan reacted coolly to the protests, while a Hong Kong Government spokesman said it would not take sides over the dispute and urged local people to demonstrate 'with moderation'. In other developments: The Professional Teachers' Union and the Democrats invited other political groups to a meeting tonight to map out a joint campaign; Major pro-China groups, the Federation of Trade Unions and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong announced a joint rally tomorrow; Another group, the Committee for the Protection of Diaoyu Islands, called on Chinese all over the world to protest against Japan's presence in the islands. They have also called for a boycott of Japanese goods on September 18, the anniversary of the Japanese invasion of China in 1931; A mass rally has been planned for September 15, to be followed by a candle-light vigil on September 18; Legislator Tsang Kin-shing's bid to travel to the islands and dismantle the Japanese-built lighthouse which initially provoked the latest protests looks certain to go ahead, on October 5, after he was offered a boat for the trip; and Two local television crews were prevented from getting near the islands by the Japanese navy. Democrat vice-chairman Dr Yeung Sum believed their delegation was allowed into the Xinhua headquarters for the first time because they were fighting for the interests of all Chinese people. The petition, addressed to National People's Congress chairman Qiao Shi , urged China to be tougher on Japan and condemn its actions at the United Nations. It also called on Japan to evacuate the islands, dismantle the lighthouse and apologise. The use of military force to protect Chinese fishermen in the region should not be ruled out. The islands issue has also prompted an unlikely alliance by Democrats and pro-China groups. The chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, Tsang Yok-sing, also handed in a petition to Xinhua and then said they would be organising more protests with the Democrats. He said the dispute should be resolved through negotiation, but urged China to take immediate action to curb the growth of Japanese militarism.