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Thousands protest at Japanese embassy in Beijing


Beijing: Angry demonstrators threw stones and plastic water bottles at the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Saturday amid rising tensions between the two powers over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The army was drafted in to help contain the protest, which threatened to spill over into violence at midday, an AFP photographer said, as police armed with shields and batons struggled to contain the angry demonstration.

There was no official estimate of the number of demonstrators, but AFP correspondents at the scene estimated the crowd size at more than 2,000 people.

Roads were cordoned off and a helicopter hovered overhead, monitoring the protest.

The protest, along with a series of other demonstrations across China, came after Japan this week announced it had bought the islands, which it administers and calls Senkaku, but which China claims and calls Diaoyu.

Six Chinese ships sailed into waters around the archipelago Friday, with Beijing saying they were there for "law enforcement", leading Tokyo to summon the Chinese ambassador to protest what it insisted was a territorial incursion.

Japanese restaurants in the area around the Japanese embassy, which were all closed, appeared to have not been targeted by the angry crowds, but some protesters had draped Chinese flags over them.

Demonstrators have staged protests in front of the embassy for most of the week. On Thursday, hundreds sang the Chinese national anthem and waved flags to condemn Tokyo's purchase of the disputed island chain.

Meanwhile, other demonstrations were being staged across China on Saturday with reports of Japanese-built cars and Japanese restaurants being attacked by angry crowds.

In China's commercial hub of Shanghai, police threw a security ring around the Japanese consulate but allowed groups of protestors to approach the compound for short periods.

Scores of protestors waved Chinese flags, chanted slogans like "Little Japanese" and held up signs insisting the islands were Chinese.

On China's Sina Weibo, a microblog similar to Twitter, images were posted of protests in the southwestern cities of Chongqing and Kunming.

Protests were reported in several other places including the eastern city of Nanjing and Xian and Taiyuan in the north.

China and Japan are Asia's two biggest economies with close trade and business ties. The political relationship, however, is often tense due to the territorial dispute and Chinese resentment over historical issues.

A Japanese diplomat told AFP on Friday that Tokyo had issued a safety warning to its citizens in China after six "serious" cases of assault and harassment.


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