Niigata halts plan to sell plot for consulate amid outcry


The Niigata Municipal Government has frozen a plan to sell city land to China for a consulate after receiving about 1,000 calls and e-mails opposing the sale, a city official said Friday.

“It has become difficult to go through with the plan because city residents’ sentiment toward China has worsened” since diplomatic relations spiraled downward following an incident in September near the Senkaku Islands, said Hiroya Ikeda of the city’s international division.

“We told China we have to consider the bilateral relationship, and we can’t sell the land without the residents’ consent because it is city-owned property,” Ikeda said.

China told the city in mid-August that it wanted to buy the 15,000-sq.-meter plot that used to host Bandai Elementary School in Chuo Ward with this year’s budget, and the city had been preparing for the sale this year, Ikeda said.

But the city began receiving petitioning calls and e-mails in October as Japan-China relations soured over a series of conflicts starting with the maritime run-in in the East China Sea.

The standard procedure would be to determine the exact dimensions of the property, come up with the price estimate and get approval from the municipal assembly, but “we didn’t event measure the land yet,” Ikeda said.