BEIJING (AP) — Security personnel outnumbered the crowds of Chinese protesting against Japan outside its embassy on Sunday, a day after demonstrations over islands that both nations claim spread across China and turned violent. Japan’s leader said the dispute was affecting the safety of Japanese citizens in China.
Rows of paramilitary police lined the perimeter of the embassy in Beijing as police let protesters in groups of up to 100 walk past the building. Many protesters threw items such as water bottles, bananas, tomatoes and eggs at the embassy and chanted slogans asserting that the disputed East China Sea islands, which are controlled by Japan, are Chinese. Dozens carried portraits of Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, and one man draped the Japanese flag over his dog.
Anti-riot police stood on nearby streets, and around 20 of their vehicles were parked behind the embassy.
Hong Kong broadcaster TVB showed footage of police firing tear gas at protesters in the southern city of Shenzhen. A man in the city’s Public Security Bureau said he had no information on that. The PSB’s social media account asked citizens to “express patriotism in a rational, civilized and law-abiding way.”
In Shanghai, hundreds of protesters across from the main gate of the Japanese Consulate chanted and waved banners. About 50 paramilitary police officers wearing helmets and carrying shields stood outside. Police cordoned off the street and were allowing people to protest in groups of 50 for about 5-10 minutes before escorting them away.
There also were protests in southern Guangzhou city.
Anti-Japanese sentiment, never far from the surface in China, has been building for weeks, touched off by moves by Tokyo and fanned by a feverish campaign in Chinese state media. Passions grew more heated this past week after Japan’s government purchased the contested East China Sea islands — called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan — from their private Japanese owners.
On Saturday, protesters turned out in more than two dozen cities across China. Thousands gathered in Beijing in front of the embassy, where people burned Japanese flags and clashed with Chinese paramilitary police before order was restored.
The embassy said Saturday that protesters around the country had set fire to Japanese factories, sabotaged assembly lines, looted department stores and illegally entered Japanese businesses.
In a statement, it asked the Chinese government to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens and businesses in China.
“Unfortunately, this is an issue that is impacting the safety of our citizens and causing damage to the property of Japanese businesses,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, on Sunday. He said Japan deplored the violence, and called on both sides to share information and maintain close communications.
In a sign that the Chinese government is concerned about social disorder spreading, users of China’s popular Twitter-like Sina Weibo site couldn’t search for the term “anti-Japan protests” on Sunday morning, and censors were quickly deleting videos of protests.
Some online users said they didn’t dare drive around in their Japanese-brand cars during the weekend.
Protests also spread outside China, with hundreds of Chinese-Americans marching in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Saturday to demonstrate against Japan’s purchase of the islands.
Further complicating matters, Japan’s newly appointed ambassador to China, Shinichi Nishimiya, died Sunday, three days after collapsing near his home in Tokyo. No official cause of death was released. He had been appointed ambassador just two days before he collapsed Thursday, and was to assume his new post next month.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press television producer Aritz Parra and researcher Henry Hou in Beijing; writers Eric Talmadge in Tokyo and Daisy Nguyen in Los Angeles; and photographer Eugene Hoshiko in Shanghai.
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