Protests held in Japan and China over islands


TENSIONS BETWEEN Asia’s two superpowers China and Japan were ratcheted up at the weekend after demonstrations in both countries to claim sovereignty over disputed islands in the east China Sea.

Relations between China and Japan have been strained since Japan detained a Chinese fisherman whose boat collided with patrol ships near the disputed islands – called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

The islands contain undersea oil and gas reserves.

There were rallies in many Chinese cities, including Xi’an, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, and Hangzhou. An estimated crowd of 2,000 gathered in downtown Chengdu, capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, on Saturday, carrying banners and shouting: “Defend the Diaoyu Islands!” “Fight Japan!” and other slogans.

Photographs from Xi’an showed thousands of students demonstrating with banners and waving Chinese flags.

Japan urged China to secure the safety of Japanese residents in China and make sure business interests were not threatened after some Japanese shops in Chengdu were damaged by protesters, Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper reported.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China was “deeply concerned” after thousands of Japanese right-wingers demonstrated at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon. “China urges Japan to earnestly fulfil the related obligations laid out in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and take effective measures to ensure the security of China’s embassy, consulates, institutions and personnel in Japan.”

However, he said that any rallies must be within the law. “It is understandable that some people expressed their outrage against the recent erroneous words and deeds on the Japanese side . . . we maintain that patriotism should be expressed rationally and in line with law.”

Similarly, China expressed its concern about events in Tokyo, and urged Japan to ensure the safety of its embassy personnel.

Anger continues to simmer in China over atrocities carried out by occupying Japanese forces during the second World War.

Japan is trying to organise a summit with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao at this month’s meeting of Asian leaders in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.