Chinese Protest at Embassy over Japan's China Sea Activities

A group of Chinese held a police-approved demonstration outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing Friday afternoon to protest Japan's "illegal" oil exploration activities in a disputed area of the East China Sea.

The protesters, organized by Beijing-based organization called the Patriots Alliance Network, shouted slogans for about an hour, during which two embassy staff members came out to take the group's written statement.

The protesters, many of the same people who have protested at the embassy in the past year over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine and the bilateral dispute over the Japan-held Senkaku Islands, heckled the staffers as they walked back into the embassy.

One demonstrator said he was disappointed the ambassador did not come out to meet with them.

In their statement and slogans, the demonstrators, mostly men in their 20s and 30s, asked that Japan quit "illegal" activity in a disputed oceanic special economic zone, disperse ships from the zone and apologize to the Chinese people, "otherwise you will bear the burden of all kinds of aftermaths."

The demonstration follows a week of diplomatic roiling over the same issue. On Wednesday Japan launched a survey of the disputed area, and the same day Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi summoned Japanese Ambassador Koreshige Anami to convey Beijing's concerns.

Last Wednesday, Japan started exploring for natural gas in what it considers its own exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea as a step to counter China's building of a natural gas complex nearby.

China disputes Japan's rights to explore the area east of the median line between the two countries, which Japan has proposed as the demarcation line for their exclusive economic zones.

Beijing does not recognize that demarcation, saying the median line is where the continental shelf ends. That would give China a far larger zone, extending almost as far as Okinawa.

The protesters displayed banners that read "China is not easy to bully; the East China Sea is not easy to invade" and "Give back China's ocean territory." They also shouted demands that Japan drop its "imperialism" and give back the Senkaku Islands.

One man wore scuba gear, a symbol of undersea exploration, and a placard reading "chemical war with Japan." Others flew Chinese flags, held up World War II photos or wore arm badges marked "resist Japan."

After Senkaku Islands protests in March led to a Japanese flag-burning incident, police prepared for Friday's demonstration by blocking off the street, forcing motorists and pedestrians to divert, and bringing fire extinguishers. Officers declined to say whether the protesters had applied for a demonstration permit.