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Thousands in China hold anti-Japan protests

The Associated Press

Thousands of Chinese protested against Japan and its claim to disputed islands at demonstrations Saturday that were far larger than past protests over the competing territorial claims.

Photos from the southwestern city of Chengdu and the central city of Zhengzhou show hundreds of people marching with banners and signs protesting Japan's claim on what China calls the Diaoyu islands. Japan calls them the Senkaku islands.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency said more than 2,000 protested in Chengdu and thousands of college students gathered in the northern city of Xian.

The report was in English only. The protests were not reported in Chinese-language state media.

Police in Chengdu, Xian and Zhengzhou would not confirm the protests, saying they would not talk to media.

"It was peaceful, with no clashes," said an employee of a Starbucks next to the square in Chengdu where protesters gathered.

The man, surnamed Fu, said by phone that a large number of police had kept order and that the protest had ended.

In downtown Xian, a woman answering the telephone at the Bell Tower Hotel said crowds were still in the streets Saturday evening.

"It started in the early afternoon," the woman said. "There are still quite a lot of people here."

Smaller protests took place outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai last month, when tensions were high over a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and two Japanese coast guard ships near the islands in the East China Sea.

China repeatedly demanded the return of the detained fishing boat captain. Japan released the captain, but Beijing shocked Tokyo by demanding an apology.

Earlier this month, the tensions seemed to calm after the prime ministers of the two countries held an impromptu after-dinner meeting in the corridor of an Asia-Europe summit.

It was not clear why the protesters chose Saturday to demonstrate. The Xinhua report cited some students saying they had heard about plans for the protest online.

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