China refused to apologise today for three weekends of violent anti-Japanese demonstrations that damaged Tokyo’s Beijing embassy and a consulate in protests over Japan’s wartime history and campaign for a permanent UN Security Council seat.
Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told his visiting Japanese counterpart as China allowed new demonstrations in at least six cities: “The Chinese government has never done anything for which it hs to apologise to the Japanese people.”
Li said Japan, instead, was to blame for “a series of things that have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” over issues such as relations with rival Taiwan and “the subject of history.”
Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura appealed to Li to protect Tokyo’s diplomats and citizens as his government denounced violence yesterday in Shanghai, where police allowed 20,000 rioters to break windows and damage restaurants and cars.
“I wish the Chinese government would sincerely handle this matter under international regulations,” Machimura said, apparently referring to treaties that oblige Beijing to protect diplomatic missions.
Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have soured amid disagreements over the Security Council, gas resources in disputed seas and new Japanese history textbooks that critics say minimise Japan’s atrocities during its conquest of China and other Asian nations.
In the southern cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, thousands of protesters called for a boycott of Japanese goods, a Japanese diplomat said. Smaller, peaceful rallies were held in nearby Dongguan and Zhuhai and in Chengdu in the west.
In Shenyang in the north-east, about 1,000 protesters marched to the Japanese Consulate but were kept away by police. The crowd threw stones but didn’t break windows, said a consulate official, Shoji Dai. He said the protest ended after about 90 minutes.
In Shenzhen, two groups – one with up to 10,000 people – marched past a Japanese-owned Jusco department store calling for a boycott of Japanese goods, said Chiharu Tsuruoka, Japan’s vice consul general in Guangzhou.
Another 500 protesters were outside another Jusco branch in Guangzhou, Tsuruoka said.
Some have suggested that Beijing permitted earlier protests to undermine Tokyo’s Security Council campaign. Beijing regards Tokyo as a rival for regional dominance, and is unlikely to want to give up its status as the only Asian government with a permanent seat on the UN council.
But Beijing called last week for calm, apparently afraid of causing more damage to relations with Tokyo or encouraging others to take to the streets to demonstrate against corruption or demand political reforms.
Yesterday, thousands of police watched as demonstrators – some shouting “Kill the Japanese!” – threw stones, eggs and plastic bottles and broke windows at the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai.
The crowd vandalised Japanese restaurants and damaged Japanese-made cars.
Shanghai government spokeswoman Jiao Yang blamed Japan for the violence, saying the demonstrations were prompted by “Japan’s wrong attitudes and actions on a series of issues such as its history of aggression,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Many Chinese believe Japan has never truly shown remorse for atrocities committed during its pre-World War II invasion of China.