By Li Hongmei, Special to Sina English
Anti-Japan protests erupted in the major Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Hangzhou, Harbin, Qingdao, and elsewhere across the country on Sunday, hours after Japanese hard line nationalists landed on one of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.
In response to landings made by Japanese ultra-rightists on the Diaoyu Islands, Chinese citizens turned out to show their ire -- in some cases attacking Japanese stores and products. The turnout is expected to be the largest since major diplomatic and territorial disputes between the two countries in 2005 led to widespread demonstrations in China and expanded into broader trade battles.
The Japanese news agency Kyodo said protesters numbered in the thousands in the cities of Shenzhen and Hangzhou and reported that groups of protesters had burned Japanese flags and had broken into Japanese restaurants.
"The illegal behavior of Japanese right-wingers has violated China's territorial sovereignty," China's foreign ministry said in a statement, saying it had lodged an official protest with Tokyo.
Ten Japanese right wingers swam ashore from a fleet of 20 vessels sailing near the islands on Sunday. Disputed ownership of the eight islets can be traced back to the end of World War II. China claim that sovereignty was returned after the war; Japan says the post-war redrawing of borders in Asia did not include the islands.
The 10 Japanese who swam onto one of the Diaoyus on Sunday morning, unfurled Japanese flags, and then returned to their boats. The Japanese coast guard called the action unsanctioned, and warned the group to depart, but did not take action to arrest or reprimand the group.
Earlier on Wednesday, a group of Chinese 14 activists from Hong Kong were arrested for “illegally entering Japanese territory” when traveling to the islands. Seven made the trip ashore, the first time since 2004 that non-Japanese have set foot on the area. The group carried the flag of the People's Republic of China onto the one of the Diaoyu Islands.
The Hong Kong group, known as the "Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands," says that its trip was aimed at pre-empting the Japanese who landed on Sunday.
Tokyo originally attempted to deflate tensions with China by quickly deporting the 14 back to Hong Kong on Friday. That move now seems far less effective in light of the Japanese nationalists' activities.
China's foreign ministry said on Sunday, "The Japanese side should properly handle the current issue and avoid seriously damaging the overall situation of China-Japan relations."
Chinese protesters, to some extent, have reason to vent anger at the Japanese repeated encroachment upon the Chinese territorial integrity and sovereignty and the attitudes the Japanese ultra-nationalists and right wingers have all along clung to in history and, in particular, in atrocities the Japanese militarists conducted in the Chinese soil during WWII.
Patriotism is, after all, a positive driving force, even if it is sometimes, so to speak, a slumbering volcano. If the burning sentiment goes wild, it would erupt, and would spew out destructive fumes, poisoning the situation as a whole.
With that said, patriotism could run rampant and spell disasters if uncurbed. Nationalism or ultra-nationalism just showcases how the national mood could go so far as to put sand in the wheels of social progress and the common good of all peoples.
Worse still, history has many a time recounted how the untamed national sentiments kidnap politics of a country and even push the entire nation to the battle field.