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Chinese protesters trash Japanese interests

In Beijing and other Chinese cities, protesters have besieged Japanese interests, escalating a China-Japan dispute over islands in the South China Sea. Some demonstrators called for drastic sanctions against Tokyo.

Police in Beijing turned out in heavy numbers to attempt to calm the crowd of several thousand waving flags and pictures and pelting the Japanese embassy with rocks and eggs.

In the southern province of Shenzhen, a local newspaper reported heavy clashes, with police using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd. Demonstrators have looted Japanese shops and attacked cars and restaurants in at least five cities. Some broke into Japanese-run factories in Qingdao, the Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.

"Regrettably, this is a problem concerning the safety of Japanese nationals and Japan-affiliated companies," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told a talk show on NHK. "I would like to urge the Chinese government to protect their safety."

Hong Kong broadcaster Cable TV showed protesters in Shenzhen holding a banner calling for a bloodbath in Tokyo. In the city of Guangzhou, protesters burnt Japanese flags and stormed a hotel next to the Japanese consulate.

The dispute over the islands had escalated Friday, when Chinese ships began patrolling nearby waters. Japan had bought three of the five islets from a private owner for 2 billion yen (about $26 million dollars or 19.5 billion euros) last week. The purchase took place despite warnings from China.

On Thursday, China filed charts with the United Nations to support its claim on the islets.

There is speculation that protests are to an extent government-organized, but their increase in intensity has meant a potential backlash in advance of China's leadership succession.

mkg / rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)