Closer Look: How a Protest in Beijing Stuck to the Script
Protestors in front of Japanese Embassy in Beijing on September 11
(Beijing) – On the afternoon of September 16, rows of policemen and security personnel in black T-shirts lined Beijing's Liangmaqiao Road near the Japanese embassy during protests over the Diaoyu Islands controversy. Security was visible everywhere, both in the middle of the road and alongside it.
Near the embassy, the road was closed to traffic, but pedestrians and bicycles could still pass. The area was packed with bystanders, and the sound of the Chinese national anthem filled the air.
Several young men in their twenties looked very excited. They wore black T-shirts bearing the Chinese flag and also held flags in hands. They told me that they worked in a small company and voluntarily came to join the protest. When I asked whether they had applied to the police to demonstrate, as Chinese law requires, they simply said that they came with colleagues.
Fully armed riot police blocked the entrance to the embassy, and the area was full of regular police in blue uniforms. There were many bystanders, but not many joined the march.
Groups of demonstrators took turns marching past the embassy, then they circled and passed the building again. They chanted slogans and sang. Most participants were in their twenties and male.
They shouted "The Diaoyu Islands belong to China!" and "Join us, compatriots!" Some slogans were less savory, but the protest was nonviolent.
Nearby Japanese and Korean restaurants were closed. They prudently displayed homemade patriotic signs and Chinese national flags in their windows and doorways.
A nearby street was filled with police, most of them relaxed. When I photographed the protest, he smiled and said: "You can join the protest."
"Can I? Won't I be pulled out?" I asked.
"Since it is me who let you in, who dares pull you out!" he said.
"But I haven't applied for permission," I said.
"It is OK. The organizer has applied," he said.
A middle-aged policeman also encouraged me to join the parade.
"Can I shout 'Punish corruptions'?" I inquired.
"No, you can't!" the middle-aged officer said, suddenly seriously.
"Only slogans concerned with Diaoyu Islands are allowed," a young policeman chimed in.
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