A Participant’s Experience of the Anti-Japan Demonstration on April 16 in Shanghai

The following anonymous account is from a graduate student who participated in the demonstration in on April 16, 2005. The student was born, raised, and college-educated in China, has studied in the US, and is now back in China doing fieldwork.

“April 16th, 2005.

It was the first protest that I attended in my life. An email was circulating around, saying that there would be an anti-Japanese protest this Sat. and volunteers would march from the People’s Square (9am) to the Japanese Consulate at Shanghai. The march will be about 5-hour long. The trigger of the protest is Japan’s effrontery of distorting the history at will to beautify its invasion and atrocity in China, South Korea and other Asian countries, as well as Japan’s bold bid for becoming a permanent member of the Security Council of UN.”

“I thought Sat. morning might not be a good time to gather lots of people. But I was wrong. I got up at

7:30am, rushed to the bus station, transferred metro, and arrived at the People’s Square at about 9:45 am. Luckily, the long procession was still marching and we were able to merge into it easily. I could not see the beginning or the ending of the procession, and the shoutings were loud to make me believe there were at least 4000-5000 of us. Most of us were young people but may not be college students (I learnt that college students were banned by school authorities from attending anti-Japanese protests). “Against Japan!” “Boycott Japanese goods!” “A crime for Japan to change its history!” “Respect the History!” “Out!! Japan!” “Work hard to strengthen our country!”…Banners and national flags were like waves above the boiling ocean, and national anthem was sung again and again, proud and loud. Pedestrians along the way stopped, watching the protest, applauding and some even shouting with us. Drivers horned their vehicles to applaud our voices. Some little kids were waving mini national flags and sent us the sign of “V.” Some people bought bottles of water and gave it to protesters. When we passed by a hospital, I saw on the road side an old man in the hospital uniform on his wheelchair, holding a board, saying “! Respect the History! Apologize to Chinese people!” His weather-beaten face and weak body could hardly conceal his indignation.

The protest is purely self-organized. The circulating email listed some rules to abide by, asking participants to avoid radical behaviors and not to cause unnecessary damage. Nevertheless, there were some uncontrollable elements. When we crossed an intersession, there was traffic jam and a line of vehicles lined up the road. Some protesters noticed there was a Honda SUV in the line. They throw eggs (they obviously brought some “weapons” with them) towards the vehicle, despite the driver was sitting inside, and shouted, “anti-Japanese goods!” Some put their anti-Japan signs on the vehicle, some kicked the vehicle…Then a big crash–some threw a big rock and broke the rear window of the poor SUV. The driver, a middle-aged woman, got out of her vehicle with a almost-crying face. She looked innocent, but nobody could help her at that specific moment. Her Honda SUV was like a match on a pile of dry hay–the match was burnt. Some organizer came and stopped the radical action. The procession moved on, but there were other victims along our way–Nissan, Honda, Mazda, a Japanese sushi bar, a Japanese restaurant, or a shop with a line of Japanese on the board. Anything that was related to Japan or Japanese words became the target. All the Japanese stores were closed on that day (maybe they got early notices?), but it did not save them from the damage. The broken window, the skeward door, shreds of glasses, broken eggs on the wall… I learnt later that some stores were actually owned or operated by Chinese, but their fault was using the Japanese name or words.

We were finally close to our destination–the Japanese consulate around 1:30pm. Most of the protesters have prepared eggs or tomatos or ink bottles to throw to the consulate, but we were frustrated to find that the police put blockades on the road leading to the consulate. The police stand in five lines to form a formidable five-layer blockade. The procession came to an unwilling stop, but the shoutings were louder and more focused, “It is not a crime to love our country!” “Let us in!” “Marching ahead!” “Anti-Japapn!!!” The police were like robots without any emotion. Their faces were indifferent towards the chaos. Some protesters tried to make a breakthrough, but were pushed back, then tried again, back again… Finally, some did get through, although the wall of police were fixed again. The stalemate lasted for about half an hour. Then we saw anothe procession came from the other direction. Both “armies” were excited to see each other and stand on the same “battlefield.” The efforts to make a breakthrough were enhanced, and another group got through. I did not make my way through, but learnt from a guy who had made his way to the consulate that the consulate was already painted by broken eggs and ink bottles. Rocks were thrown to the windows, and Japanese flags were burnt. Some protesters even climbed to the roof of the consulate, waving Chinese national flag. “It is almost impossible for people to move. A huge crowd of protesters were in front of the consulate. There was not even space for a policeman…”

On my way back from the consulate, I saw another procession of about 5000 people was marching towards the consulate. Same enthusiam, similar shouts and banners, but unfortunately, more damages to the victims along the way…

To me, it was a meaningful day, as I participated in the protest and voiced my objections towards the recent moves by Japanese government. Although the voice of each individual is negligible, all together we can form a formidable voice: history is not to be distorted at will, and we are no longer a nation to be bullied. From the waving banners and flags, from the enthusiastic faces of protesters, and from the huge procession, I saw the strength, the character and the hope of a great nation, which I am so proud of.

According to a news source, the estimated number of protesters at Shanghai on that day was 20,000 to 30,000. On that same day, protests were staged in other cities. The total number of protesters at Shanghai, Tianjin, and Beijing is estimated at 100,000.

Here are more pictures of protest.”

(UPDATE: This post is marked with Technorati tag to join blogger’s conversation on this issue. Please see here.)



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