China’s authoritarian leaders are scrambling to contain anti-Japan protests that flared in at least a half-dozen cities over the weekend, with more planned for Tuesday despite attempts to kill discussion of the rallies online.
The protests were sparked by a collision last month between a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese patrol vessels near a chain of disputed islands — which set off a diplomatic tussle between the two Asian powers that has now subsided.
But street protests have continued, and have begun to attract domestic causes as well, ranging from freedom of speech to high housing prices, and even in one case, a call for multiparty democracy.
“They seem to be organised by ordinary people,” activist Liu Feng said on Monday. “They’re being held in smaller, more remote cities to avoid too much attention and pressure from the central government”. Chinese protesters gathered at cities including Changsha in the south and Lanzhou to the west.
Japanese TV footage showed police ripping down banners and escorting people away from the protests that attracted several hundred participants, carrying Chinese flags and chanting, “boycott Japanese goods”.
Calls for more rallies on Tuesday have circulated on the Internet, including a planned march to the Japanese consulate in Chongqing.