Protests held in China after Chinese, Japanese activists land on disputed islands

The Takeaway

A cluster of islets, the Senkakus islands, including Uotsuri-jima (left), Kita-Kojima and Minami-Kojima, are the center of a dispute between China and Japan. (Photo by BehBeh via Wikimedia Commons.)

A dispute over a chain of uninhabited islands known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkakus in Japan has led to rising tensions between the two countries.

Activists from Hong Kong, Macau and China landed on one of the islands and were detained by Japan on Wednesday and subsequently deported on Friday. On Sunday, Japanese activists landed on the island. 

Over the weekend, Chinese protesters rallied in the streets in China in protest of the Japanese action. 

Chinese state media portrayed the protests as fairly small, each composed of 200 people or less. But The New York Times reported photos from the city of Chengdu which show groups of protesters numbering in the tens of thousands. The pictures showed one banner that read, "Defend the Diaoyu Islands to the death." Another read, "Even if China is covered with graves, we must kill all Japanese."

The islands, taken together, add up to just a couple square miles of land, located about 100 miles northeast of Taiwan, or roughly one-fourth of the distance between Taiwan and the main islands of Japan, said Keith Bradsher, the Hong Kong bureau chief of The New York Times.

"The real reason this attracts so much emotion, the real reason why people are arguing over it is this is the unfinished legacy of World War II," he said. "There is tremendous animosity still among many people in China over what Japan did during World War II. And, on the other hand, there is a sentiment among many in Japan that Japan suffered and atoned, although it may not have actually apologized, for what it did in World War II and they regard these islands as Japanese.

In other words, he said, it's national pride that's driving this dispute.

In China, the government has seemed a bit uneasy with the display, but has attempted to channel it in a direction that's to its liking, by having them in certain place.

"I have not heard of any evidence the Chinese government was organizing the protests," Brassher said. "In fact, the police here in Hong Kong tried to stop the protesters from going (to the islands)."

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