Chinese police yesterday used pepper spray, tear gas and water cannons to contain numerous protests against Japan in southern China, as protesters took to the streets in major cities to demand the prolonged dispute over the sovereignty of a group of islands.
Mass protests emerged on Saturday when protesters surrounded the Japanese embassy to throw stones, eggs and bottles and policing challenge. In the largest demonstration, police fired about 20 rounds yesterday tear gas and used water cannons to fend off thousands of protesters in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. Protesters attacked a Japanese department store, took the shields of the police and stripped of their helmets.
There have been looting and attacks on vehicles and Japanese restaurants in at least five Chinese cities. Outbreaks were also reported in Japanese managed factories in Qingdao .
"Unfortunately, this is a problem that concerns the safety of Japanese citizens and companies affiliated with Japan," said Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to an NHK program. "I would urge the Chinese government to ensure their safety," he said.
The territorial dispute escalated on Friday when Beijing sent six patrol vessels to a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, raising tensions between the two countries.
China was responding to Japan's decision on Tuesday to purchase by private operations to the islands, which are called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by the Chinese, despite warnings from Beijing angry.
China could have allowed the protests to put pressure on Japan, but also risks being under the wrath of their own citizens, facing a delicate succession of power planned for later in the year.