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China marks 'National Humiliation Day' with anti-Japanese protests (+video)

The 81st anniversary on Tuesday of Japan's invasion of Manchuria  brought a fresh wave of anti-Japan demonstrations, intensified by dispute involving contested islands in the East China Sea.

By Ben BlanchardReuters, Antoni SlodkowskiReuters / September 18, 2012

Anti-Japan protesters hold portraits of the late Communist leader Mao Zedong, Chinese national flags, and a poster that reads: 'Sept. 18, National Humiliation Day,' while marching on a street outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing Tuesday.

Alexander F. Yuan/AP

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Beijing/Tokyo

Anti-Japan protests reignited across China on Tuesday, the sensitive anniversary marking Tokyo's occupation of its giant neighbour, escalating a maritime dispute which has forced major Japanese firms to suspend business there.

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On the anniversary of Japan's 1931 invasion of China, protesters in both countries continue angry demonstrations over territory in the East China Sea. Lindsey Parietti reports.

Relations between Asia's two biggest economies have faltered badly, with emotions running high on the streets and also out at sea where two Japanese activists landed on an island at the centre of the dispute.

China reacted swiftly to the news of the landing, which risked inflaming a crisis that already ranks as China's worst outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment in decades. Beijing described the landing as provocative, lodged a complaint with Tokyo and said it reserved the right to take further action.

Japan's coastguard said three Chinese maritime surveillance ships briefly entered what Japan considers its territorial waters around the disputed islets on Tuesday, further raising tensions, although they and seven other nearby ships had left the area by late evening. It was the second such incident since Friday, when six ships briefly entered the waters.

The dispute over the uninhabited group of islands in the East China Sea - known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China - led to another day of protests in China that were accompanied by heavy security.

Japanese businesses shut hundreds of stores and factories across China and Japan's embassy in Beijing again came under siege by protesters throwing water bottles, waving Chinese flags and chanting anti-Japan slogans evoking war-time enmity.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda urged Beijing again to protect Japanese citizens in China.

For China, Tuesday marks the day Japan began its occupation of parts of mainland China in 1931.

"Today is our day of shame," said a Beijing protester, Wei Libing, a waiter in his 40s.

"Wipe out all Japanese dogs," read one banner held up by one of thousands of protesters marching on the embassy, which was ringed by riot police standing six rows deep. Japan's foreign ministry said some embassy windows had been smashed.

Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by China's bitter memories of Japan's military aggression in the 1930s and 1940s and present rivalry over resources - the islands are believed to be surrounded by energy-rich waters.

Rowdy protests sprang up in other major cities including Shanghai, raising the risk they could get out of hand and backfire on Beijing, which has given tacit approval to them through state media. One Hong Kong newspaper said some protesters in the southern city of Shenzhen had been detained for calling for democracy and human rights.

Japanese firms hunker down

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, visiting China to promote stronger Sino-U.S. military ties, again called for calm and restraint. Washington has said it will not take sides.

China said it wanted a peaceful outcome. "We still hope for a peaceful and negotiated solution to this issue and we hope to work together and work well with the Japanese government," Defence Minister Liang Guanglie said after meeting Panetta.

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