BEIJING--Thousands of Chinese besieged the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Sept. 15, hurling rocks, eggs and bottles, and protests broke out in other Chinese cities in an angry dispute over a group of remote islands.
Paramilitary police with shields and batons barricaded the embassy, holding back and sometimes fighting with slogan-chanting, flag-waving protesters who at times appeared to be trying to storm the building.
"Return our islands! Japanese devils get out!" some shouted. One held up a sign reading: "For the respect of the motherland, we must go to war with Japan."
Protester Liu Gang, a migrant worker from the southern region of Guangxi, said: "We hate Japan. We've always hated Japan. Japan invaded China and killed a lot of Chinese. We will never forget."
By early evening, police had succeeded in persuading some people to leave. Rings of anti-riot police stood guard in front of the embassy, apparently preparing for a long night.
"I think it's time for the Chinese government to get tougher. Look at what the ordinary people feel. The government should respond," said a man who gave his family name as Xue.
"I don't mean war, but tougher action like sanctions. You can see how much Japan depends on our economy. Then don't sell them any rare earths," he said, referring to elements mined in China which are vital to defense, electronics and renewable-energy technologies.
Japan said its foreign minister had cut short a visit to Australia and flown back to Tokyo.
The long-standing territorial dispute escalated dramatically on Sept. 14 when China sent six surveillance ships to a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, raising tension between the two countries to its highest level since 2010.
It was responding to Japan's decision on Sept. 11 to buy the islands, which Tokyo calls the Senkaku and Beijing calls the Diaoyu, from a private Japanese owner after Chinese warnings not to.
Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by China's bitter memories of Japan's military aggression in the 1930s and 1940s and present rivalry over resources--the islands are believed to be surrounded by energy-rich waters.
Relations between the two countries, which have extensive business and trade ties, chilled in 2010, after Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain whose boat collided with Japan Coast Guard vessels near the islands.
DEMONSTRATORS RUN WILD IN CHINA
On Sept. 15, a pack of demonstrators stormed into and set fire to a Panasonic Corp. factory in the development area in Qingdao, Shandong province, on the east coast.
According to company officials, part of the factory was burned.
Another Japanese-affiliated company in the same area reportedly suffered similar damage.
At a supermarket in Qingdao, operated by Aeon Co., a leading Japanese supermarket chain, protesters destroyed the elevator.
Half of the outlet’s inventory worth about 2.4 billion yen ($30.6 million), including items in shops, were either plundered or destroyed, according to outlet officials.
In Changsha, Hunan province, in inland China, the Heiwado 51 square outlet became the target of mob violence.
Demonstrators began the attack by throwing stones at the 27-story structure and chanting, “Strike a Japanese store.”
Each time a window was shattered by a stone, applause erupted in the crowd, estimated at more than 10,000 people.
Some started fires in construction materials in front of the department store, with the blazes reaching the second floor of the building.
Demonstrators kept chanting slogans urging others on such as, “Light the entire store on fire” and “It's no crime for acts of patriotism.”
Some protesters, utilizing some of the construction materials, smashed the front door of the department store and broke into the first store. They destroyed the reception area and whatever was accessible.
Police officers sporting shields and helmets had been deployed by local police authorities, but they did not stop the surging mob.
Some officers watched the raging violence while grinning.
"CHINA WILL NOT SHY AWAY"
The latest dispute flared up last month after Japan detained a group of Chinese activists who had landed on the islands.
China also has similar disputes with neighboring states in Southeast Asia over islands in the South China Sea.
Diplomats say Tokyo and Beijing want to keep the row from escalating. That could be made more difficult by China's impending leadership changes and a looming election in Japan.
China's ruling Communist Party rarely allows street protests. "I think the government is encouraging this," said one protester, who gave his name as Uda Chen.
"They could have stopped all of us from approaching when we were at the subway station. The government has taught us to be anti-Japanese at school, so if they want us to stop it would be like slapping their own mouths," he added.
The influential tabloid Global Times, published by the People's Daily, said backing off was not an option for China.
"China should be confident about strategically overwhelming Japan," it wrote, saying Chinese forces should "increase their preparation and intensify their deterrence" against Japan.
"China will not shy away if Japan chooses to resort to its military," the paper added.
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