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Japanese ex-pats in hiding in China and workers urged to stay indoors as fury over islands dispute grows

Read Time:6 Minute, 32 Second

By Phil Vinter

PUBLISHED:07:40 EST, 17  September 2012| UPDATED:09:48 EST, 17 September 2012


Japanese factories have been forced to  temporarily close in China and expatriate workers advised to stay indoors after  angry protests over ownership of islands in the East China Sea spilled on to the  streets.

Over the weekend in China there have been  violent attacks on well-known Japanese businesses such as car-makers Toyota and  Honda in the country’s worst outbreak of  anti-Japan sentiment in  decades.

The dispute over  the islands, known as the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China, now threatens to seriously damage trade ties between  Asia’s two biggest economies with Chinese state media warning that trade  relations are in jeopardy.


Protesters march during an anti-Japan protest in  Shenzhen in south China’s Guangdong province yesterday – they are angry about  Japan’s ‘nationalizing’ of the disputed Diaoyu Islands
The long-standing dispute erupted last week when the  Japanese government decided to buy some of the islands from a private Japanese  owner

‘I’m not going out today and I’ve asked  my  Chinese boyfriend to be with me all day tomorrow,’ said Sayo  Morimoto, a  29-year-old Japanese graduate student at a university in  Shenzhen.

Japanese housewife and mother Kayo Kubo, who  lives in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou, said her young family and other  Japanese expats were also staying home after being terrified by the scale and  mood of the weekend protests in dozens of cities.



‘There were so many people and I’ve never  seen anything like it. It was very scary,’ she said.

China and Japan, which generated two-way  trade of $345 billion last year, are arguing over a group of uninhabited islands  in the East China Sea, a long-standing dispute that erupted last week when the  Japanese government decided to buy some of them from a private Japanese  owner.

The move, which infuriated Beijing,  was  intended by Japan’s government to fend off what it feared would be  seen as an  even more provocative plan by the nationalist governor of  Tokyo to buy and  build facilities on the islands.

A protestor hurls a tear gas bottle back at police  during the weekend’s violent scuffles which included attacks on well-known  Japanese businesses such as car-makers Toyota and Honda


A demonstrator throws flowerpots towards the police as  thousands of protesters take to the streets
A Chinese policeman emerges from a closed Japanese  restaurant covered with Chinese national flags and banners saying ‘it is  Chinese-owned’

In response, China sent six  surveillance  ships to the area, which contains potentially large gas  reserves.

Today a flotilla of around 1,000 Chinese  fishing boats  were sailing for the islands and are due to reach them later in  the day, the state-owned People’s Daily said on its microblog.

The weekend’s protests mainly  targeted  Japanese diplomatic missions but also shops, restaurants and  car dealerships in  at least five cities. Toyota and Honda said arsonists had badly damaged their  stores in the eastern port city of Qingdao at  the weekend.

Toyota said its factories and offices were  operating as normal again today and workers were back in work, however, Japanese  electronics group Panasonic  said one of its plants had been sabotaged by  Chinese workers and would  remain closed through tomorrow – the anniversary of  Japan’s 1931  occupation of parts of mainland China.

Tokyo fears the date could  cause another  dangerous outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment.

Many Japanese schools across  China,  including in Beijing and Shanghai, have cancelled classes this  week.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko  Noda, who  met visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today,  urged Beijing to ensure  Japan’s people and property were protected.

Panetta said the U.S. would  stand by its  security treaty obligations to Japan but not take sides in  the row, and urged  calm and restraint on both sides in their dispute  over the islands.

‘It is in everybody’s interest …  for Japan  and China to maintain good relations and to find a way to  avoid further  escalation,’ he told reporters In Tokyo.

Tens of thousands of protesters gather outside the city  headquarters of Communist Party in Shenzhen, in south China’s Guangdong province  on Sunday


The angry protestors face-up to riot police as cans of  tears gas are launched by officers against mob


Demonstrators surround a team of paramilitary police  officers in the worst outbreak of anti-Japanese sentiment in decades

The overseas edition of the People’s  Daily,  the main newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, warned that  Beijing could  resort to economic retaliation if the dispute festers.

‘How could it be that Japan wants  another  lost decade, and could even be prepared to go back by two  decades,’ said a  front-page editorial in the newspaper. China ‘has  always been extremely  cautious about playing the economic card’, it  said.

‘But in struggles concerning  territorial  sovereignty, if Japan continues its provocations, then China will take up the  battle,’ the paper said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said  after talks with Panetta, that Tokyo and Washington agreed the disputed islets  were covered by the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

Chinese demonstrators protest outside the Japanese  embassy in Beijing demanding the return of the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands from  Japan


The dispute over the islands, known as the Senkaku by  Japan and the Diaoyu by China, now threatens to seriously damage trade ties  between Asia’s two biggest economies


Police walk past a closed Japanese restaurant covered  with Chinese national flags as anti-Japanese protests continued outside the  Japanese Embassy in Beijing

‘I did not bring up the topic today, but it  is mutually understood between Japan and the United States that (the islands)  are covered by the treaty,’ he said after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon  Panetta in Tokyo.

Japanese electronics firm Canon Inc has  stopped production at three of its four Chinese factories for today and  tomorrow, citing concerns over employees’ safety, Japanese media reports said,  while All Nippon Airways Co reported a rise in cancellations on Japan-bound  flights from China.

The dispute also hit the shares of Hong  Kong-listed Japanese retailers today, with department store operator Aeon Stores  (Hong Kong) Co Ltd falling to a seven-month low.

‘All Japan-related shares are under selling  pressure …,’ said Andrew To, a research director from Emperor  Capital.

The oil-rich islands in the East China sea are the cause  of the violent dispute between China and Japan

China is Japan’s biggest trade partner and  Japan is China’s third largest. Any harm to business and investment ties would  be bad for both economies at a time when China faces a slowdown.

Qingdao police announced on the Internet  today they had arrested a number of people suspected of ‘disrupting social  order’ during the protests, apparently referring to the attacks on  Japanese-operated factories and shops there.

In Shanghai, home to China’s biggest Japanese  expatriate population of 56,000, one expat said his family as well as other  Japanese customers had been chased out of a Japanese restaurant on Sunday by  protesters near the Japanese consulate.


Guangzhou police said on an official  microblog, that they had detained 11 people for smashing up a Japanese-brand  car, shop windows and billboards on Sunday.

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