Japan-related books disappear in Beijing; Chinese demand pay hikes from Japanese employers

September 22, 2012


Book lovers in Beijing looking for a copy of Haruki Murakami's latest best-seller “1Q84” will find themselves out of luck.

Anti-Japan sentiment in China over the Senkaku Islands issue has spread, leading to a removal of books by Japanese authors and heightened calls for boycotts of Japanese goods. Chinese workers at Japanese companies in China are staging walkouts, with many demanding higher salaries in a market where they already receive decent pay by local standards.

On Sept. 17, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication, which oversees publishers in the capital, summoned editors at publishing houses that handle books by Japanese writers, according to sources in the industry.

After explaining the intensifying squabble with Japan, a senior bureau official told the editors they “should unify ideas and grasp a (political) direction.”

“We participants took it as a suggestion that we should refrain from releasing and selling books related to Japan,” one of the editors said.

A document reportedly from the bureau was posted on the Internet calling for a halt to the release of works by Japanese authors, publications by Chinese writers on themes surrounding Japan and Japanese publications translated into Chinese.

But the press and publication bureau, in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, denied issuing such instructions.

Bookstores in Beijing, however, have already been getting rid of books by Japanese authors.

At Wangfujing, a well-known bookstore in central Beijing, copies of “1Q84” were removed from a shelf displaying best-sellers on Sept. 21, along with all other books by Japanese authors. An internationally renowned novelist, Murakami has long enjoyed a strong following in China.

Another large bookstore in Beijing has followed suit. All publications related to Japan or written by Japanese authors were yanked from the shelves and carted away.

“It's because of the deteriorating ties between China and Japan,” said a clerk at the bookstore.

The removal of the books is just one of a number of developments spreading in various segments of the Chinese government to ratchet up pressure on Japan to protest the Japanese government’s purchase of three uninhabited islets in the disputed Senkaku chain from a private landowner in Saitama Prefecture earlier this month.

The Senkaku Islands, located in the East China Sea and long administered by Japan, are called the Diaoyu Islands in China. They are also claimed by Taiwan.

On Sept. 20, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stressed a need to take effective steps to protect China’s sovereignty and territory in a gathering of Chinese residents in Brussels.

Although Chinese authorities have moved to rein in anti-Japan demonstrations after they raged across the country, workers at Japanese-affiliated companies are now starting to demand salary increases.

About 2,000 workers at Canon Inc.’s factory in Zhongshan, Guangdong province, walked out to demand pay raises on Sept. 20, after they took to the streets in factory uniforms to denounce Japan earlier in the day, according to some workers.

“Due to the strike, we were granted a week off with pay,” a female worker at the plant posted Sept. 20 on a Weibo microblogging site.

The site, which has more than 300 million Chinese users, carried pictures and videos showing Canon workers marching in the city carrying the five-star, red national flag of China.

About 6,000 people work at the factory, which will be closed until Sept. 23.

After the incident, false rumors spread that the workers were given a pay increase of 500 yuan (6,300 yen or $80) and that they were allowed to take days off through Oct. 7, a week that includes China’s National Day on Oct. 1.

The rumors touched off another late night strike on Sept. 20 by about 2,000 workers at Canon’s factory in Zhuhai in the same province.

Police and local authorities rushed to the factory. No one was hurt and no damage was reported.

Canon said wages for workers at its factory in Zhuhai are “among the highest in the industrial complex” in the city.

“Workers are trying to seize this opportunity to get better working conditions,” said a 20-year-old male worker at the Zhuhai factory of the walkout.

Officials at the Guangzhou office of the government-affiliated Japan External Trade Organization said it is hard to tell if the demonstrations are protests over the territorial dispute or simply demands for pay increases--or both.

Many factory workers in China, including those at Japanese plants, are migrant workers born in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a tech-savvy generation that shares information on protest rallies and strikes through mobile phones and computers.

But according to a leading Japanese manufacturer, many of the protesters take unverified online information seriously and want to make noise over it.

Chinese authorities are now restricting searches for “anti-Japan demonstrations” and “strikes” on Weibo as part of efforts to prevent further confusion stemming from the protests.

Elsewhere in Guangdong province, Toshiba Tec Corp.’s factory in Shenzhen suspended operations after its workers went on strike in an anti-Japan protest on Sept. 20.

What were staged as anti-Japan rallies are also turning into strikes for higher pay at other Japanese affiliates, including Nikon Corp.’s factory in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, and an automotive parts manufacturer in Shanghai.

(This article was compiled from reports by Nozomu Hayashi in Beijing and Atsushi Okudera in Shanghai.)

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An image posted on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo shows workers at Canon Inc.'s factory protesting in Zhongshan, Guangdong province. (From the Internet)

An image posted on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo shows workers at Canon Inc.'s factory protesting in Zhongshan, Guangdong province. (From the Internet)

  • An image posted on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo shows workers at Canon Inc.'s factory protesting in Zhongshan, Guangdong province. (From the Internet)
  • An image posted on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo shows workers checking their cellphones shortly after a walkout at Canon Inc.'s factory in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on Sept. 20. (From the Internet)

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