China Allows More Protests in Shanghai Against Japan

Published: April 17, 2005 – Copyright The New York Times
SHANGHAI, April 16 – One day before a high-level Japanese visit aimed at defusing rising tensions between the countries, thousands of Chinese surrounded the Japanese Consulate here in an angry daylong demonstration.
After a three-hour march that began on the Shanghai riverfront, steadily gaining strength along a 10-mile route, well over 10,000 Chinese gathered at the consulate chanting anti-Japanese slogans and throwing a variety of missiles – from heavy chunks of pavement to paint balloons and bottles – at the consulate while several thousand law enforcement agents looked on passively.
Asked by a reporter whether anything could be done to rein in the violence, a Chinese officer answered, “By whom?” and then walked away as if annoyed. In several hours, there appeared to be only one arrest.
The Chinese tolerance of the violence drew immediate protests from Japan, whose foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura, was to visit Beijing on Sunday. “Even though information was available beforehand to infer that there would be a demonstration, nothing was done to prevent it,” the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Mass protests are rarely tolerated by the Chinese authorities. The lenience on Saturday provoked wry comments from many ordinary Chinese. “They say it is fine to denounce Japan, but the government must know that people have even more serious grievances against the state of affairs in our country,” said a man named Zhang, who declined to provide his full name.
Another man, a 23-year-old barber in central Shanghai, where several shops catering to Japanese were destroyed, said he had nothing against Japan or Japanese people. “People are taking part in this march because they aren’t allowed to protest anything else,” he said. “In your country, people are allowed to demonstrate freely, so something like this probably wouldn’t attract many people. Here we are never given a chance to protest, so everyone wants to see it for himself, to be there.”
The demonstrations, with their heavily nationalistic overtones, were the latest spike in tension between Japan and China. Whether consciously or not, protesters used slogans that echoed anti-Japanese campaigns of a century ago, denouncing “little Japan,” calling Japanese dogs, urging China to “stand up,” and calling for a boycott of Japanese products. Many protesters said they were angry about a new version of a history textbook that they said whitewashed the darkest chapters of Japan’s imperial conquest of China in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Others said they had been motivated by a recent dispute between the countries over tiny islands in the East China Sea thought to be rich in oil and gas deposits. Still others cited reports that Japan was seeking a seat on the United Nations Security Council, which they said was intolerable unless Japan apologized more forthrightly for atrocities committed in China more than 60 years ago.

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