Territorial disputes between China and Japan over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea have stirred up sometimes violent protests in some 70 Chinese cities.
The islands, called Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese and Senkaku Islands by the Japanese, had long been a sore topic between the two sides, and although sharp rhetoric was exchanged over them from time to time, no serious confrontations ever ensued.
But last week, the Japanese government concluded a contract to “purchase” three of the five islands from a family it claimed to be the rightful owners, sparking a diplomatic storm and sparked protests against Japanese businesses around China.
These demonstrations have become bigger and sometimes violent over the weekend. In the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, tens of thousands have taken to the street and attacked Japanese businesses and even Chinese-owned Japanese stores and restaurants. Yesterday, the Chinese owner of a ramen shop in Shenzhen had to take down the signage to calm protestors gathering outside.
In Guangzhou today, a group of anti-Japanese demonstrators have stormed the Garden Hotel where the Japanese consulate is located. No injuries or loss of lives has been reported.
Police has been sent to control these mass rallies and protests, but sometimes ineffectively. Television news reports have shown footages of rioters damaging and looting shops.
Protests are also taking place in Shanghai and outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, but they are reportedly more peaceful and orderly.
Travellers who have to visit China over the next few weeks are advised to be vigilant and stay away from big crowds, especially those gathering outside of Japanese department stores.