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Chinese Authorities Temper Violent Anti-Japan Protests

Students Cancel Mass March in Beijing

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, April 16, 2005; Page A13

BEIJING, April 16 -- More than 3,000 anti-Japanese protesters marched through Shanghai Saturday and pelted the Japanese Consulate with eggs and stones. But Chinese authorities, seeking to temper popular outrage, prevailed on organizers to call off large-scale demonstrations planned for Beijing.

Busloads of traffic police and anti-riot forces surrounded the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, where one week ago thousands of rioters hurled stones and shattered windows while police officers stood by. Tiananmen Square, where a protest had been planned Saturday morning, was inundated with uniformed and plainclothes police as Chinese and foreign tourists milled about the broad esplanade. There was no sign of demonstrators.

The controls imposed on anti-Japanese protesters in the capital indicated China's senior leaders decided shows of rage against Japan are not useful for the moment in their standoff with Tokyo, particularly because protests could spin out of control. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura was scheduled to arrive in Beijing Sunday for two days of talks aimed at defusing the tension of the last several weeks, and both sides expressed a desire for calm.

As late as Friday evening, Beijing police were negotiating with protest organizers over the best route to take for what was planned as a mass march through the capital ending in front of the Japanese Embassy. But Chen Henan, a People's University student helping promote the demonstrations, said the students were forced to cancel their plans.

Large numbers of police accompanied the protesters in Shanghai and Hangzhou, another city where marchers took to the streets. At the consulate in Shanghai, police sought to keep protesters back but at least one window was shattered by flying rocks and cracks were seen in several others.

The Chinese government was widely criticized, in Japan and elsewhere, for failing to protect the Japanese Embassy and several Japanese businesses that were damaged last Saturday and Sunday. Against that background, a senior Chinese official, State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, said Friday that the government did not condone the violence last weekend, according to the official New China News Agency. But Tang repeated earlier comments by senior Chinese officials that the Japanese government should learn from the anger and force the Japanese people to face what their army did in China during World War II.

"The Chinese people really can't understand how a nation which cannot honestly look at its aggressive history and which cannot correctly understand the feelings of the people of the countries it victimized could be qualified to bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council," Tang was quoted as saying.

China, one of the council's five permanent members, has objected to Japan's effort to gain a permanent seat, a factor contributing to tension between the two Asian nations. The Beijing leadership has long asserted that Japan must come to terms with its past before it can aspire to international leadership. In particular, Chinese officials have pointed to regular visits by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where convicted war criminals are honored along with other Japanese war dead.

The disagreement escalated recently after Japanese education authorities approved a textbook considered by Chinese nationalists to gloss over Japanese war crimes.

Fueling the resentment, Japan announced Wednesday that it would allow private companies to begin exploratory drilling for petroleum in a disputed area of the East China Sea.

Researchers Zhang Jing in Beijing and Jason Cai in Shanghai contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company