Japanese firms closed China plants today after a weekend of protest violence.
Thousands of people protested in the streets of China and Hong Kong against Japan’s claim to a contested island territory.
The protesters are rallying against recent actions by some 150 Japanese activists, who on Sunday raised their country’s flag on the disputed Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diyao.
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Major Japanese brandname firms announced factory shutdowns in China on Monday and urged expatriates to stay indoors ahead of what could be more angry protests over a territorial dispute between Asia’s two biggest economies.
China’s worst outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment in decades led to weekend demonstrations and violent attacks on well-known Japanese businesses such as car makers Toyota and Honda, forcing frightened Japanese into hiding and prompting Chinese state media to warn that trade relations could now be in jeopardy.
“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.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the government would protect Japanese firms and citizens and called for protesters to obey the law.
“The gravely destructive consequences of Japan’s illegal purchase of the Diaoyu Islands are steadily emerging, and the responsibility for this should be borne by Japan,” he told a daily news briefing.
The islands, called the Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, are also claimed by self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway Chinese province.
“The course of developments will depend on whether or not Japan faces up to China’s solemn stance and whether or not it faces up to the calls for justice from the Chinese people and adopts a correct attitude and approach.”
China and Japan, which generated two-way trade of $345 billion last year, are arguing over a group of uninhabited islets 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.
In response, China sent six surveillance ships to the area, which contains potentially large gas reserves. On Monday, a flotilla of around 1,000 Chinese fishing boats was sailing for the islands.
My twin brother in Hong Kong tells me this story is all over the news right now.