Diaoyu Islands

Beijing threatens to clamp down on anti-Japan protests

Authorities back away from tacit approval after Diaoyu demonstrations turn to violence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 August, 2018, 3:40pm

Beijing has threatened to clamp down on anti-Japanese rallies after protests triggered by Tokyo's purchase of the disputed Diaoyu Islands turned ugly over the weekend.

Police in some mainland cities have banned protests as the government backs away from the tacit encouragement of public anger over the territorial row.

There were still some protests targeting Japan yesterday, but they were smaller than those over the weekend. In Beijing, dozens of protesters marched to the Japanese embassy.

With some mainland cities planning activities to mark today's 81st anniversary of the Mukden Incident - an explosion staged by Japan and used as a pretext for its invasion of China - internet users in more than a dozen cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanning , have called for mass rallies.

Organisers hope 10,000 people will attend a rally in Changsha , Hunan . That has prompted concern from authorities following violent demonstrations over the weekend that saw cars, shops and businesses with Japanese ties vandalised.

Police in Xian , Shaanxi , have banned large protests in crowded areas and locations near government offices. The use of phone text messaging and online messaging to organise illegal assemblies is also forbidden.

The government of Zhuhai , Guangdong, urged its residents to stay away from large crowds. In Guangzhou, police detained 11 people who vandalised Japanese cars and shops, as did police in Qingdao .

Political commentator Zhang Lifan said the central government had been fanning nationalism to divert public dissatisfaction about domestic issues. "It is playing with fire."

Professor Da Zhigang , a Japanese studies specialist at Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said: "Things will get complicated when the disputes are mixed with internal social problems, such as corruption."

Hong Kong activists who plan to sail to the Diaoyu Islands again after a successful landing last month criticised the Hong Kong government for failing to lift the suspension of their boat's licence even though it passed safety checks. Marine Department officers yesterday inspected the boat, which was damaged after the Diaoyus mission.

The Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands said an officer told them the Kai Fung No 2 had passed safety tests, but the department needed further "legal advice" before the suspension could be lifted.

Committee member Tsang Kin-shing said: "If it's OK, then it's good to go," he said. "This is suppression. It's stalling."

Tsang and boat owner Lo Chau plan to fly to Beijing today to lodge a complaint against police in Naha, the authorities in Okinawa and Japan's coastguard for "hijacking the boat and kidnapping members" in Chinese territory. Tsang, who does not have a home return permit, said the central government should let him enter the mainland because he is a Chinese citizen.

Additional reporting by Mimi Lau, He Huifeng, Louise Ho