Japanese activists fuel territorial dispute between China and Japan
Nine or ten Japanese activists swam ashore and raised flags today on Uotsuri Island, one of a group of islands at the centre of an escalating dispute between China and Japan.
The Japanese-controlled islands, located close to Okinawa in southern Japan and off the east coast of China, are known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. Despite being uninhabited, their sovereignty has been a matter of debate since the early 1970s, when China first claimed historic right and ownership.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry had warned Japan just yesterday over its activists reaching the islands, and this action served only to provoke more strife between the two countries.
The coastguard did not provide the identification of the individual activists involved in today’s events. However, all are members of a group of ultra conservative MPs and local politicians visiting waters off the islands to mourn victims of a boat accident at the end of WWII.
Today’s protest from Japanese activists echoed the actions of a group of 14 Hong Kong residents and mainland Chinese activists just days ago. They were arrested and deported by Japanese authorities for landing without authorisation.
As a consequence of this action, Chinese protesters in Beijing, Hong Kong and other cities, named the Chinese activists heroes while burning Japanese flags. Demonstrations turned violent on several occasions, with demonstrators attacking sushi restaurants and other businesses perceived to have a Japanese connection.
Sina Weibo, China’s most used microblogging site, showed pictures of a protest in the southwestern city of Chengdu where participants had banners saying: “Defend the Diaoyu Islands to the death” and “Even if China is covered with graves, we must kill all Japanese.” Protests were particularly strong in the southern regions where photographs, said to be from Shenzhen, showed damaged or overturned cars which were mainly Japanese models.
With both nations refusing to relinquish their claim on the islands and protests ongoing, the long-running territorial dispute amongst the two countries looks to be far from being settled.