As anti-Japan protests raged through Chinese cities this weekend, the role of the police and other authorities in allowing or even encouraging the protests has been under scrutiny. CDT translated an article from Ming Pao which reported that plainclothes officers at the rally outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing were announcing the “rules” of the protest, saying:
We all know that everyone is very angry, but there are a lot of foreign media up ahead. This is a time to demonstrate the quality of Chinese citizens. Do not carry bottles of water or anything like that. Remember to sing the national anthem. Everyone must take part in chanting slogans. Facial expressions are to be kept serious—don’t laugh when you shouldn’t be laughing. And don’t play with your cell phones.
Similarly, Time reporter Austin Ramzy posted a translation of a recorded police announcement at the Beijing protests, which included:
Japan has violated China’s sovereignty. It’s right for you to express your opinion. We share your feelings. The government has made it clear that they won’t sit there and watch our territorial sovereignty be violated. We should endorse the government and support the government. We should express our patriotic fervor legally, rationally and orderly; obey the laws and regulations; do not take drastic actions; do not affect the social order.
The evidence that China is turning a blind eye to these protests is overwhelming. The absence of China’s police forces is glaringly obvious, especially in contrast to the vast numbers that turn up and start jumping in front of lenses and smashing cameras whenever a protest China’s government doesn’t like is scheduled to take place. China has clearly shown it is more than capable of keeping anti-Japan protests under control if it wants to. The obvious conclusion now — the only conclusion now — is that it doesn’t want to.
[…] Some will probably still feel that the title of this blog post is a bit sensationalist, but I disagree. The state many not be financially supporting — or even publicly encouraging — these protests, but I would argue the low police presence and apparent lack of attempted control sends a very strong message of support, especially in a country where you can get arrested and sentenced to a year of labor for a retweeting a joke.
Xinhua did report that a number of people had been detained for their role in the protests in Guangzhou:
Guangzhou police have detained 11 people for smashing a Japanese brand car, shop windows and billboards in Sunday’s anti-Japan protests.
— Xinhua News Agency (@XHNews) September 17, 2012
An editorial in People’s Daily, translated by China Media Project, attempts to walk a very fine line between legitimizing the anger of the protesters and presenting an image of stability:
“The Diaoyu Islands are China’s!” For days now, people in places across the country have shouted this across the waves of the East China Sea. In their fury they did not lose restraint, in their enthusiasm they remained moderate, expressing themselves in a civilized and orderly manner, voicing the determination of the Chinese people in protecting their sovereign territory, forcefully opposing the drama perpetrated by the Japanese government in “purchasing” the Diaoyu Islands, and winning the respect and understanding of the international community.
When the sovereign territory of the Mother Country is subjected to provocation, our anger is irrepressible, and the enthusiasm of the youth of China must have release. These patriotic feelings are precious, and they must be cherished and protected. But, a civilized attitude abiding by rule of law should be the basic conduct of the citizenry. Doing damage to the legal property of one’s countrymen and venting one’s anger on the heads of Japanese citizens in China is extremely inappropriate.
Yet despite this proclamation, the people’s anger often lacked restraint and was far from moderate. While protests in Beijing were relatively peaceful, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Shenzhen turned violent. In various places, banners called for the deaths of Japanese, including one held by apparent employees of an Audi dealership:
The New York Times reports on the Chinese government’s response to the protests and the complicated diplomatic situation it now finds itself in:
A signed editorial on the Web site of People’s Daily, the authoritative Communist Party newspaper, said the protests should be viewed sympathetically. While it did not defend the violence, the editorial said the protests were a symbol of the Chinese people’s patriotism.
“No one would doubt the pulses of patriotic fervor when the motherland is bullied,” the editorial said. “No one would fail to understand the compatriots’ hatred and fights when the country is provoked; because a people that has no guts and courage is doomed to be bullied, and a country that always hides low and bides its time will always come under attack.”
Some articles in the Chinese news media, however, said the protests should be “rational” and peaceful.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is scheduled to visit Beijing on Monday, and some observers said the government might try to limit the protests.
Photos of the protests can be found via CDT Chinese here and here. The following photos of protests around China were posted on weibo and collected by brightonatreddit:
Read more about the protests and about the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, the disputed territory that both China and Japan claim rights to.