• Compiled From Wire Reports


BEIJING — Thousands of Chinese protesters held a rally here Saturday, chanting “Down with Japan” and pelting the Japanese embassy and businesses with rocks and bottles.

No Japanese in the Chinese capital were reported injured.

The protesters demanded a boycott of Japanese goods to oppose new textbooks that critics say gloss over Tokyo’s wartime atrocities.

Some marched to the Japanese Embassy in the central part of the capital and threw rocks and bottles, breaking some of its windows.

Several thousand later went to the eastern part of the city and surrounded the official residence of Japanese Ambassador Koreshige Anami, where they threw stones at his windows and overturned a nearby car believed to be Japanese.

Hundreds lingered near the compound until evening, when they began to disperse.

Others were seen attacking Japanese restaurants and a bank, throwing rocks, smashing windows and insulting the workers.

The violence prompted Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi to file a protest with Chinese Minister to Japan Cheng Yonghua, urging Beijing to tighten security for Japanese diplomatic compounds and to protect Japanese citizens and businesses there.

Cheng reportedly said he would immediately report the request to his government.

Scores of unarmed police stood by as the crowd of mostly young men burned a Japanese flag and marched through the university district in the northwest. Although the police tried to maintain order, they did not try to stop the protesters.

The protest was the biggest in the tightly controlled capital since 1999, when the U.S. Embassy was besieged after NATO warplanes bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade during the war over Kosovo. It is also believed to be the largest anti-Japanese demonstration in Beijing since the two countries normalized diplomatic ties in 1972.

Estimates of the crowd ranged from 10,000 to about 20,000.

The Japanese Embassy in Beijing said there were no reports of Japanese nationals being hurt by the demonstrators.

Waving Chinese flags and singing the national anthem, the demonstrators gathered at a shopping center in the capital’s technological research and sales hub of Zhongguancun.

The marchers carried signs saying “Protest new Japanese textbooks,” referring to the recently approved junior high school texts, including one penned by nationalist scholars, that has been criticized as glossing over Japan’s wartime atrocities against China.

Spectators clapped and cheered as the marchers passed.

“Boycott Japanese goods!” the protesters chanted. “Long live China!”

Some of them tore down a half-dozen advertisements for Japanese-made Canon cameras along the road as they passed.

Some of the messages on their placards even called for cutting off diplomatic ties with Japan.

“I think China should be more firm,” said protester James Liu, 25, an engineer who works for a French company. “This is a good way to pass our voice to the government and to the Japanese people.”

“It’s true that Japanese investment helps China,” Liu said. “But we don’t like it when they change their history books. That’s why we’re here.”

Others called for rejecting Tokyo’s campaign for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council — a privilege held only by China, the United States, Russia, Britain and France.

Referring to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, some protesters chanted, “Koizumi is a dog! Dogs are no good!”

China’s government hasn’t said whether it will oppose giving a Security Council seat to Japan. But Beijing regards Tokyo as its rival and could be unwilling to give up its status as the only Asian nation with a permanent council seat, which carries veto power over U.N. actions.

A group of Chinese nationalists claim to have gathered millions of signatures on an online petition calling for Tokyo to be denied a permanent Security Council seat.

Public anger has been mounting in China and South Korea recently over a series of tit-for-tat disputes. The new history textbook has touched a particularly raw nerve because it is said to gloss over the Japanese military’s massive sexual enslavement of Asian women as well as other offenses and incidents.

Last week, a trade association for Chinese chain stores called for a boycott of beer, coffee and other products made by Japanese companies that it claims supported the revised version of the textbook, which is considered particularly nationalistic.

The education ministry approved several history textbooks, including the revisionist one, on Tuesday for use in schools beginning in April 2006.

The protests have turned violent in some areas. Last weekend in Chengdu, demonstrators vandalized a shopping mall operated by Ito-Yokado Co. and an outlet in Shenzhen run by Aeon Co., both major Japanese supermarket operators.

On Friday, Japanese Ambassador Anami said the embassy has called on the Chinese government to ensure the safety of Japanese businesses and residents, as rumors swirled of a possible anti-Japan demonstration in the capital over the weekend.

The Japanese Embassy earlier warned in a message on its Web site that a demonstration for a boycott of Japanese products may be planned in Zhongguancun.

Most protests in the Chinese capital are banned, but the government occasionally allows brief protests by a few dozen people at a time outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on key war anniversaries.

Past demonstrations outside the Japanese embassy have typically been heavily policed, choreographed events involving about 50 people, with short speeches, some singing, and petitions or letters being presented to the mission.

In a rare move, the English-language service of China’s official news agency, Xinhua, ran a story on the Saturday rally, noting that more than 1,000 people took part to protest “the tampering of history in Japan.” China’s state media seldom reports on protest rallies inside China.

Word of the protest Saturday spread in advance through e-mail and mobile phone messages sent by Chinese nationalist groups.

At the Japanese restaurant Gassan, protesters hurled rocks into the windows and insulted its workers. Hundreds watched as dozens of protesters smashed all of its windows and shouted “Japanese whores” at the workers inside.

Police were seen telling the rock throwers that the workers were probably Chinese.

After five minutes of rock and bottle throwing, a young Chinese man stood up and told the crowd to end the violence.

However, the crowd moved down the street not far from the restaurant and began pelting the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi with stones on East Third Ring Road.

At one point, some of the demonstrators gathered near a local outlet of Japanese restaurant chain Yoshinoya and shouted, “Don’t sell Japanese goods.” The group dispersed when police officers steered them away from the outlet.

In the afternoon, about 1,000 protesters marched to the Japanese Embassy, which had been cordoned off with yellow tape, and attacked it with rocks and plastic bottles as dozens of police cars, vans and a busload of armed police stood by.

Protesters later pushed their way through a paramilitary police cordon to the gates of the Japanese ambassador’s residence, throwing stones and water bottles and shouting “Japanese pig come out!”

Some 500 paramilitary police holding plastic shields raced into the compound and barricaded the gates.

“Chinese people shouldn’t protect Japanese,” the protesters shouted at the police as they threw stones and bricks at the residence.

By early evening, the protesters began returning home, and buses suddenly appeared to take student demonstrators back to their universities.

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