Anti-Japanese protests over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea escalated further Tuesday on the anniversary of Japan’s 1931 invasion of China.
The protests started last week after the Japanese government bought the disputed group of islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku and China calls the Diaoyu, from a private Japanese owner despite warnings from China. That sparked demonstrations, which have now spread to more than 80 Chinese cities, and are developing into the worst outbreak of anti-Japanese sentiment in China in decades.
Tensions have heightened to the point that major Japanese firms have had to shut down businesses in China, while Japanese expatriates are staying indoors fearful of their safety.
The dispute is also raising concerns over the economic fallout and the impact on trade ties between the two countries, which is an estimated $345 billion.
Here are some scenes from the anti-Japanese protests that have rocked China.
By Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani(Posted Sept. 18, 2012)
Chinese authorities had to use tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters during an anti-Japanese demonstration in the southern city of Shenzhen on Sunday.
Protesters took to the streets in several Chinese cities including Shenzhen and Guangzhou, where crowds turned violent, clashing with the police. Water cannons were also used to stop protesters from trying to break into government buildings, and at least a dozen people were arrested, according to the South China Morning Post.
Japanese flags were set on fire in cities across China as demonstrators showed their anger over Japan “nationalizing” the disputed remote islands in the East China Sea.
Protesters in the central Chinese city of Wuhan (pictured) forced big Japanese companies like Honda to shut down operations. Other well-known firms like Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Panasonic also shuttered plants and stores to prevent damage from Chinese protests.
Property and businesses believed to be owned by Japanese residents were damaged by unruly protesters.
Despite calls by the Chinese government for people to demonstrate in an “orderly and rational” manner, many restaurants and supermarkets were smashed and looted.
In the northwestern city of Xi’an (pictured), residents took pictures of a car damaged in the attacks.
Residents in more than 80 Chinese cities have taken to the streets to protest against Japan’s purchase of disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The anti-Japanese demonstrations are considered to be the worst in decades, leading to fears of a deepening crisis. The protests that began over the weekend reignited on Tuesday on the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China. Many Japanese expatriates were reported to be staying indoors as the demonstrations turned more hostile.
Posters degrading Japanese officials and its flag were carried around by protesters in the northwestern city of Haikou (pictured) as a form of protest.
Banners saying “Wipe out all Japanese dogs” and “Japan is a dog of the Americans” were held in marches from the capital Beijing to southern Guangzhou. Such protests have raised fears that Japanese firms could reconsider investments in the country, according to Reuters.
Demonstrators — like the one pictured throwing back a tear gas bottle — showed no signs of giving up even after several days of protests.
Some demonstrators carried portraits of longtime leader Mao Zedong as emotions ran high on the streets. Japan’s embassy in Beijing came under siege with protesters hurling water bottles, and chanting anti-Japan slogans on Tuesday, according to Reuters. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is visiting China to promote stronger U.S.-China military ties, urged calm and restraint.
Pictures of the demonstrations in China on popular Twitter-like blog Sina Weibo showed people looting shops and damaging Japanese cars.
Anti-riot police were called in to several cities to control the violent demonstrations. On Monday, Japan’s consulate general in Guangzhou said some Japanese expatriates received threatening phone calls, while others were refused a ride by taxi drivers and even physically and verbally attacked, according to the China Daily.
While the cost of the anti-Japanese protests to businesses in China has yet to be calculated, it is expected to be hefty as several factories and shops closed down.
Japanese supermarket operator Aeon, for example, closed all but five of its 35 stores in China on Tuesday, while clothing retailer Fast Retailing shut about a quarter of its 145 Uniqlo stores in the mainland, according to Reuters. Carmakers Toyota and Honda also reported that arsonists had badly damaged their stores in the eastern port city of Qingdao over the weekend.
Anti-Japanese protests have spilled outside of the mainland and spread to Taiwan, which also lays claim to the uninhabited islands.
Demonstrators in Taiwan burned and stepped on the Japanese flag in protests that took place in front of the parliament building in Taipei on Tuesday. The protesters are demanding that the Taiwan government cooperate with China to get the islands back from Japan, according to media reports.
A group of Taiwanese fisherman is planning to sail to the disputed archipelago in the East China Sea this week in an attempt to assert Taiwan’s sovereignty claim, according to a local politician, AFP reports.