CHONGQING, China (Reuters) - China’s top internal security official urged people to stay within the law in voicing patriotism, as a fresh protest against Japan flared on Tuesday following one that turned against the Beijing government.
Ties between China and Japan, the two biggest Asian economies, tumbled last month after the detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain by the Japanese coast guard after their boats collided near disputed islands in East China Sea.
Zhou Yongkang, the ruling Communist Party’s top law-and-order official, made the remarks in a Monday meeting after weekend protests against Japan in two inland Chinese cities, Lanzhou and Baoji, each drew hundreds of demonstrators.
“We must strengthen propaganda and opinion work to guide the public to voice its patriotic aspirations in a rational and orderly way according to the law, protecting social and political stability,” Zhou told officials, according to the People’s Daily, the main paper of the ruling party.
A fresh protest broke out in Chongqing Tuesday, when about 500 demonstrators crowded outside the building housing the Japanese consulate for the southwest riverside city.
The students and young people held up red Chinese flags and placards demanding that Tokyo abandon claims to islands in the East China Sea that China claims as the Diaoyu islands while Japan call them the Senkaku.
“The Diaoyu Islands belong to China,” some yelled as police officers kept a careful distance. “Down with Japanese devils, boycott Japanese goods,” stated one banner.
The protesters have demanded a tougher line against Tokyo, following similar demonstrations by thousands of Chinese and Japanese last week that focussed on claims to islands in the East China Sea claimed by both nations.
In Baoji, a small city in Shaanxi province in China’s north, a few protesters turned their anger against the Chinese government, denouncing corruption and high housing costs, and unfurling a sign demanding a multi-party political system, according to Japanese and Hong Kong news footage and reports.
The Communist Party has long been wary of protests against foreign targets becoming a magnet for domestic discontent that could unsettle one-party rule. Such anti-government protests are deemed illegal and organisers face arrest.
Strict security has so far deterred any big protests in Beijing or other major cities near the coast.
In anti-Japan protests in some big Chinese cities in 2005, some demonstrators also turned their ire against Beijing, saying the country’s leadership was too weak.
Along with a long-standing dispute over the disputed islands, Japan is worried that China has started holding back shipments of rare earth metals, vital in making electronic goods and auto parts.
China has denied cutting shipments to Japan for political reasons, and says it restricts overall production and exports of rare earths to avoid depleting its reserves and causing harm to the environment.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said his government was fully within its rights to control exports of rare earths.
Additional reporting by Huang Yan, Sabrina Mao and Chris Buckley in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie