Tuesday, February 20, 2018

China reins in anti-Japan protests on sensitive anniversary

BEIJING — Anti-Japan protests continued across China on Tuesday, with thousands of people marching on the Japanese Embassy to mark the anniversary of Japan's brutal invasion 81 years ago.

The numbers equaled or surpassed those seen in riots over the weekend, but almost no violence was reported as Chinese security forces turned out en masse to contain demonstrations that authorities had allowed, and even encouraged, a week ago. Even so, several of Japan's biggest brand-name companies shut down factories in China, and Japanese shops and restaurants closed.

The recent tensions over a disputed chain of islands have threatened to strain the $340 billion trade relationship between China, the world's second-largest economy, and Japan, the third-biggest. While the Chinese government had seemed willing at first to use the protests to increase its bargaining power in the territorial dispute, Tuesday's overwhelming show of force signaled that it intends to rein in the demonstrations before they spiral out of control and affect the already slowing Chinese economy.

Outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, paramilitary police with riot gear, as well as uniformed and plainclothes officers, flooded the area, setting up a tightly controlled, pre-scripted protest routine. Protesters were divided into manageable groups of a few hundred, separated by disciplined lines of officers and led in marching and chants by leaders in the front.

A helicopter hovered above for much of the day, while authorities instructed the crowds via loudspeakers to protest "in an orderly manner" and to avoid "impulsive behavior."

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