SHANGHAI, China – About 20,000 anti-Japanese protesters – some shouting “kill the Japanese” – rampaged through Shanghai on Saturday, stoning Japan’s consulate and smashing cars and shops in protest over Tokyo’s bid for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat and perceived whitewashing of wartime atrocities.
Thousands of police watched the rioting but did little to restrain the crowd, and Japan filed an official protest, complaining that Chinese authorities failed to stop anti-Japanese violence for a third weekend in a row.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura flew to Beijing today for talks aimed at defusing the tensions.
His visit came as a crowd of about 1,000 protesters began marching toward Japan’s consulate in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, a Japanese diplomat said. Police were trying to keep the crowd away from the consulate, and there were no immediate reports of injuries or violence, said Shoji Dai, an official of the consulate.
Elsewhere, about a dozen protesters marched in the southern city of Dongguan, near Hong Kong. One sign carried by a marcher said, “Boycott Japanese goods, restore Chinese glory.”
In Shanghai, Japan’s Embassy said two Japanese were injured Saturday after being surrounded by a group of Chinese, Kyodo News agency reported. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry denounced the protesters’ “destructive and violent actions” and said it had “strongly protested” to the Chinese government.
“Even though information was available beforehand to infer that there would be a demonstration, nothing was done to prevent it,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Shanghai government, however, blamed Japan, saying the protest was prompted by “Japan’s wrong attitudes and actions on a series of issues such as its history of aggression,” the official Xinhua news agency said.
A government spokeswoman, Jiao Yang, called for calm and asked residents not to participate in unauthorized demonstrations.
Thousands of people also participated in peaceful protest marches in Hangzhou and Tianjin, defying government demands for restraint. In Beijing, hundreds of police blanketed Tiananmen Square in the center of the Chinese capital to block a planned protest.
State television did not mention the Shanghai protests in its main evening news report, apparently reflecting fears by communist leaders that they could further damage already sour relations with Tokyo or encourage others to take to the streets against corruption or demand political reforms.
Last week, protesters smashed windows at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and marched in other Chinese cities. The violence prompted several Japanese companies to cancel business trips to China, while others told employees in China to take safety precautions.
Some have suggested that Beijing has permitted recent protests to support a campaign against Tokyo’s bid for a permanent Security Council seat. The five current permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – have veto power over U.N. actions.