Published April 09, 2005
BEIJING – Protesters threw rocks and broke windows at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Saturday, accusing Japan of distorting its wartime past in new schoolbooks and urging the Chinese government to prevent Tokyo (search) from gaining influence at the United Nations.
About 1,000 people shouted "Boycott Japanese products!" and threw eggs, rocks, beer bottles and pieces of concrete as hundreds of police formed a human wall to keep them away from the embassy. Their projectiles smashed the windows of the guardhouse outside the fenced compound.
They marched to the embassy on Beijing's (search) east side after a noisy rally by more than 6,000 people in the university district in the capital's northwest, where some burned a Japanese flag.
"China's economy needs to grow even bigger so Japan won't be able to push us around ever again," said protester Huang Liyi, 22, a chemist who learned about the rally on a Web site.
Others said advance word of the protest spread by e-mail and mobile phone text message.
The Japanese government lodged a protest over China's handling of the demonstrations and asked for better security. Most protests in the Chinese capital are banned, but the government occasionally allows brief protests by a few dozen people at a time outside the Japanese Embassy (search) on key war anniversaries.
On Sunday, China said it had demanded calm from the protesters and sent an ample police force to keep public order.
"The Chinese government demanded the demonstrators to keep calm and sane, give voice to their attitude in a lawful and orderly way, and not to engage in excessive action," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying.
The protest was the biggest in the tightly controlled Chinese capital since 1999, when the U.S. Embassy was besieged after NATO warplanes bombed Beijing's Embassy in Belgrade during the war in Kosovo.
Japan has faced mounting anger from China and South Korea over new textbooks that critics say gloss over such World War II atrocities as Japan forcing Asian women into sex slavery and its wartime aggression.
Saturday's rally began at a shopping center that sells Japanese-made electronics. Shopkeepers pulled down window shades to hide their products, and police kept demonstrators from entering.
Protesters waved flags, sang the Chinese national anthem and carried signs condemning the history textbooks.
Spectators clapped and cheered as the marchers passed. Some waved Chinese flags from their storefronts and apartment windows.
"Down with Japan!" the protesters chanted. "Long live China!"
Some tore down advertisements for Japanese-made Canon cameras and kicked cars that they believed were Japanese. Others threw stones at a Japanese restaurant but were pushed away by police.
Others called for the rejection of Tokyo's campaign for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council — a status held now by only China, the United States, Russia, Britain and France.
"I think China should be more firm," said James Liu, 25, an engineer at a French company in Beijing. "This is a good way to pass our voice to the government and to the Japanese people."
The government's Xinhua News Agency took the rare step of reporting on the protest. It put the number of demonstrators at more than 10,000 and quoted some of their chants.
The Chinese government has not said whether it will oppose a Security Council seat for Japan. But Beijing regards Tokyo as its rival and could be unwilling to give up its status as the only Asian nation with a permanent council seat, which carries veto power over U.N. actions.
A trade association for Chinese chain stores called last week for a boycott of beer, coffee and other products made by Japanese companies that it claims supported the textbook revision.
Protesters reportedly smashed windows of a Japanese-owned department store last weekend in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
A group of Chinese nationalists claim to have gathered millions of signatures on an online petition calling for Tokyo to be denied a Security Council seat.