SHENZHEN, China--What started out as an anti-Japan protest here quickly escalated into a free-for-all that only ended when riot police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
The special economic zone of Shenzhen in Guangdong province is a base for many foreign companies.
On Sept. 16, sporadic protests flared, each with roughly 2,000 demonstrators, in various parts of central Shenzhen.
Many demonstrators targeted facilities of Japanese companies to protest Japan's decision to purchase the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are called Diaoyu Islands in China.
Some protesters who had converged on a Japanese commercial facility soon turned their attention to a building opposite.
The structure houses the Shenzhen municipal Communist Party committee, the highest authority in the city.
Protesters hurled plastic bottles at the police standing guard in front of the Communist Party facility.
One demonstrator yelled, "Why are you protecting a Japanese store?"
Using a loudspeaker, a police official said to the crowd, "We understand your patriotic feelings. The Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory. Please maintain order."
About 500 protesters went to the rear of the building where dozens began tearing down a metal barricade stretching 10 meters or so.
One protester yelled, "That's a Japanese car, smash it."
Protesters threw rocks at the vehicle, parked in the lot of the Communist Party building, and smashed the windows.
Some protesters began throwing rocks at the police as well.
One yelled, "You dogs! Release the protesters who have been detained."
When police realized that water cannon had little effect on the protesters, they began firing tear gas. The explosive sound of the shells popping as they released eye-watering smoke scattered many of the protesters.
One yelled, "Why are you not firing that into the Japanese?"
Those who stopped and tried to resist the police were detained.
As police marshaled their forces to protect the Communist Party facility, the protesters turned their attention to the commercial facility affiliated with a Japanese company. A large sign for a Swiss-made wristwatch that had been placed to cover the windows was torn down. The few police who had remained tried their best to stop the protesters.
The police and demonstrators both appealed to patriotism, with the police asking the protesters to stop if they loved their nation while the demonstrators asked police not to interfere if they loved their nation.
About a 1,000 or so in the crowd standing in the background cheered on the protesters. Some of the demonstrators began kicking at the window that was now uncovered.
A man in his 20s grabbed a metal pipe and began smashing the glass, creating a large hole that some of the men tried to climb through. At that point, hundreds of police converged on the scene.
More tear gas was fired into the protesters and as police wielding shields charged forward, the men who had tried to enter the building as well as onlookers began fleeing.
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