Violent Protests in China Over Japan Island Row

August 19, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
A group of protesters pelt a Japanese restaurant (R) with plastic bottles as they attend a rally against Japan's claim of islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in Hangzhou in China's Zhejiang province on August 19, 2012. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)

Thousands demonstrated in several cities in China, calling for a boycott of all Japanese products, burning Japanese flags, and damaging Japanese restaurants and vehicles after Tokyo last week deported 14 Chinese activists who landed on a disputed island in the East China Sea.

Estimates had between 1,000 and 5,000 people taking part in demonstrations in Shenzhen, located in Guangdong Province. Protesters were adamant that the Chinese regime should assert China’s control over the Senkaku Islands, reported the Kyodo news agency

Taiwan also asserts claim over the rocky and uninhabited islands, but Japan formally annexed them in the late 19th century. After World War II, the United States controlled the islands until 1971, before handing over control to Japan.

On Sunday, around a dozen Japanese right-wing activists landed on the largest of the islands, called Uotsuri, which will likely trigger more protests and a prompt Chinese state-run media to write more editorials that China should claim the islands, which are called “Diaoyu” in Chinese.

State-controlled media mouthpieces published several statements issued by China’s foreign ministry, which said China has sovereignty over the islands.

But the Chinese protests might be a double-edged sword for Beijing, which has already implemented measures to tighten security to keep the demonstrations from escalating and “maintain stability” ahead of the paramount leadership change in the Politburo Standing Committee this fall, Kyodo reported. 

Hundreds of police were deployed in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, and censors removed posts on social media sites that call for protest rallies on Sunday in Shanghai and Chongqing, the news agency said.

In Shenzhen, demonstrators broke the windows of a Japanese restaurant and threw bottles at vehicles. Police cars that were made in Japan also were overturned, reported Japan-based broadcaster NHK, which said around 1,000 took part in the protests.

On Sunday, Japanese lawmakers from several parties asserted that the Senkakus are part of the country’s territory, saying the most recent incident where Japanese activists sailed to the islands is a domestic issue. The protesters, they said, were not allowed to go there and said they do not represent the sentiment of the Japanese government.

Last Friday, Japan deported 14 activists that set off on a boat from Hong Kong, attempting to place Chinese flags on one of the islands. They were quickly arrested by the Japanese coast guard.

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