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Japanese embassy issues alert over Diaoyu Islands protests

Safety advisories highlight rallies planned for weekend, as crowds continue to gather

Protests demanding that Japan leave the disputed Diaoyu Islands continued in Beijing and other major mainland cities yesterday, with Japanese consulates issuing safety advisories to its citizens in China.

Safety concerns have arisen at rallies planned for the weekend.

The eight uninhabited islands, in the East China Sea, are claimed by the mainland, Taiwan and Japan - which calls them the Senkaku Islands.

About 200 protesters held flags and banners in front of the embassy in Beijing reading, "Japanese thieves, give the Diaoyu Islands back to us," and calling for a boycott of Japanese goods.

"Yesterday we had about 2,000 protesters in total, and today we will definitely have more people … we are expecting more than 10,000 people on September 18," said Zhou Feng, a 71-year-old protest organiser. Tuesday is the 81st anniversary of the Mukden Incident, an explosion staged by Japan as a pretext for invading north China in 1931.

Small crowds gathered outside the Japanese consulate in Shanghai, which issued an alert for the second time in a week. It detailed six instances of locals harassing Japanese citizens.

"We have also asked Japanese in Shanghai to avoid going out at night and avoid going to areas around the Japanese consulate," a spokesman said.

A Japanese foreign ministry survey in 2010 showed Shanghai had the largest population of Japanese nationals on the mainland - nearly 50,000 people.

Rokudo Tatsuo, the owner of a Japanese coffee shop near the embassy in Beijing, said he was frightened by the protests.

"I've been in China since 2005 but this time things are bad," he said. "My Japanese store owner friends are all wondering if we should close the stores for few days during this chaos."

The embassy in Beijing and the consulate in Guangzhou said they had learned of cases of Japanese being verbally abused.

Several hundred Shenzhen residents cancelled trips to Japan ahead of the eight-day Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday, reported yesterday.

Dr Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, called on protesters to exercise restraint. "Some of these cars are manufactured in China and assembled by Chinese workers," he said.

The Chinese Football Association yesterday said it would postpone a game tomorrow at a stadium near the Japanese embassy in Beijing. China's badminton team will withdraw from next week's Japan Open.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Japanese embassy issues alert over Diaoyu protests