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New Anti-Japanese Protests Erupt in China

Thousands Descend on Consulate in Shanghai; Beijing Remains Calm

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, April 16, 2005; 11:50 AM

BEIJING, April 16 -- Thousands of young Chinese protesters massed in front of the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai Saturday, shouting "Japanese must die" and lobbing eggs, bottles and stones in spite of a sizable security force and official appeals for order.

The crowd, small at first, grew to more than 10,000 people as several streams of marchers converged on the consulate during the day. Police tried to prevent them from approaching the consulate, but some of the angry, chanting youths pushed their way through. At least one window was shattered and several were cracked.

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Anti-Japanese Protests Erupt in Shanghai

The raucous scene contrasted vividly with Beijing, the capital, where police prevailed on student organizers to cancel a large-scale demonstration they had planned. The Japanese Embassy in Beijing, which was lightly damaged during protests last weekend, was ringed with police, some in anti-riot gear, but no demonstrators showed up.

Tiananmen Square, the site of another planned demonstration, was full of Chinese and foreign tourists enjoying Beijing's warm spring sunshine, along with dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police, but no protesters were visible in the vast esplanade.

Protests planned for Guangzhou, in southern China near Hong Kong, and Chongqing in central Sichuan province, also were called off. But anti-Japanese demonstrators marched peacefully in Tianjin, a seaport east of Beijing, and Hangzhou, a tourist destination near Shanghai, according to reports from those cities.

The decision to keep Beijing calm showed Chinese authorities wanted to calibrate the popular rage against Japan that has boiled into angry protests over the last two weeks, lest it slip out of control and further poison the atmosphere. Japanese and Chinese leaders also called for restraint as the Japanese foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura, scheduled two days of talks here Sunday and Monday aimed at bringing under control what has become a crisis in relations between Beijing and Tokyo.

Resentment against Japan, never far from the surface here, has surged in recent days because of a newly approved textbook in Japan that, according to Chinese nationalists, falls short of the truth in recounting what Japan did during its World War II occupation of China. The Communist Party government, which keeps tight control over any political manifestation in China, has allowed the demonstrators to let off steam, citing them as proof of its insistence that Japan must more frankly deal with its past.

Premier Wen Jiabao, pointing at the protests, said Tuesday that Japan is not ready for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council until its government moves clearly to confront the memory of Japanese wartime atrocities. In a pointed contrast, the Foreign Ministry on Thursday applauded Germany's handling of its World War II legacy and said its bid for a permanent Security Council seat was worthy of consideration.

The tension rose further Wednesday when Japan announced it will allow private companies to begin exploratory drilling for petroleum in a disputed area of the East China Sea. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced the decision as a provocation and reserved the right to undefined further steps. "The consequences depend on Japan," said a ministry spokesman, Qin Gang.

China already has begun drilling in a nearby area that is not under dispute. But Japanese authorities said the Chinese may be sucking petroleum from underwater deposits that straddle the contested demarcation line, which Japan insists should be halfway between Okinawa and the Chinese coast.

Researcher Jason Cai in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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