BEIJING – The arrest and deportation of the Chinese nationals who landed on one of the remote Senkaku islets last week sparked anti-Japanese demonstrations and rallies in major cities across China on Sunday as the two traded barbs over territorial shenanigans in the East China Sea.
The Chinese landing on the Japan-controlled islets was followed the same day by a Japanese landing that the Japan Coast Guard did little to deter.
Protests in Shenzhen and Hangzhou, eastern China, turned violent as protesters burned Japanese flags and vandalized Japanese restaurants and vehicles.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry lodged a strong protest with Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa on Sunday over the landing and asked Japan “to stop actions that undermine China’s territorial sovereignty,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
Niwa rejected the protest and repeated that the Senkakus are Japanese territory. He urged China to ensure the safety of Japanese residents, the Japanese Embassy said.
Niwa, in a telephone conversation with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying, also expressed regret over the landing of the Chinese activists on Uotsuri last Wednesday and asked China to “make all efforts” to prevent such incidents from recurring, the embassy said.
In Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, about 5,000 people marched in the streets to claim Chinese sovereignty over the islets, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by Taiwan. The marchers also called for a boycott of Japanese products and burned Japanese flags.
More than a dozen Japanese cars were vandalized in Shenzhen, and some broke into Japanese restaurants to vandalize those as well.
The protests are the first major anti-Japan events to take place there since the 2010 run-in between Chinese and Japanese vessels near the Senkakus.
On Sunday, about a dozen Japanese activists landed on Uotsuri, the largest of the islets, in a move that is likely to exacerbate negative feelings in China and increase protester turnout.
Similar demonstrations on a smaller scale were reported in Hong Kong and other Chinese cities, such as Guangzhou, also in Guangdong, Chengdu in Sichuan Province, and Shenyang, Harbin and Qingdao in the northeast.
In Beijing, small groups of people held sporadic protests in front of the Japanese Embassy.
Calls were posted on the Internet to hold protest rallies this weekend after Japan arrested 14 Chinese who had sailed from Hong Kong to plant a flag on the Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu and Taiwan calls Tiaoyutai, to assert China’s claim over the uninhabited chain.
Japan deported the activists, as well as two reporters who were aboard the Hong Kong vessel, on Friday.
On Sunday, security was tight in the most turbulent areas to keep the protests from escalating while Beijing is trying to ensure social stability ahead of a quinquennial reshuffle of the Communist Party’s leadership at the party congress this fall. But Chinese authorities apparently made no move to stop the protests.
In Hangzhou, about 3,000 protesters chanted anti-Japanese slogans while carrying placards reading, “Small Japan, get out of the Diaoyu Islands,” using a derogatory term for Japan.
Some protesters smashed windows and banged on the shutters of Japanese restaurants.
In Chengdu, more than 1,000 protesters sang China’s national anthem and shouted anti-Japanese slogans as they marched in the streets, cordoned off by about 500 police officers.
In Hong Kong, about 200 people marched to the Japanese Consulate General in protest.
In 2010, some of the Senkaku protests in China turned into antigovernment demonstrations, with people railing against widening income gaps and corruption in the bureaucracy.
The 14 sailed to the islets aboard a Hong Kong ship to assert Chinese sovereignty.
China claims the islets have been part of its territory since ancient times. Japan maintains the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japanese territory and that there are no territorial disputes between the two countries.