Thousands of protesters besieged the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Saturday, hurling rocks and bottles at the building as police struggled to keep control, amid growing tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies over a group of disputed islands.
Paramilitary police with shields and batons barricaded the embassy, holding back slogan-chanting, flag-waving protesters who at times appeared to be trying to storm the building.
“Return our islands! Japanese devils get out!” some of the protesters shouted. One of them held up a sign reading: “For the respect of the motherland, we must go to war with Japan.”
Protester Liu Gang, a migrant worker from the southern region of Guangxi, said: “We hate Japan. We’ve always hated Japan. Japan invaded China and killed a lot of Chinese. We will never forget.”
As tensions escalated, and reports emerged of other protests around China, Japan said its foreign minister had cut short a visit to Australia, arriving back in Tokyo on Saturday morning to deal with the situation.
The long-standing territorial dispute escalated dramatically on Friday when China sent six surveillance ships to a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, raising tensions between the two countries to their highest level since 2010.
China had sent the ships in response to the Japanese government’s decision on Tuesday to buy the islands, which Tokyo calls the Senkaku and Beijing calls the Diaoyu, from a private Japanese owner despite Chinese warnings against doing so.
Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by China’s bitter memories of Japan’s military aggression in the 1930s and 1940s and present rivalry over resources and regional clout.
It’s getting closer to December 21, 2012.