Ai Weiwei: Anti-Japan protests ‘staged’
Posted on September 21, 2012, Friday
BEIJING: Anti-Japan protests in China were encouraged by leaders in Beijing, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said yesterday, after he videoed demonstrators damaging the US ambassador’s car.
Ai was visiting a friend’s apartment near the US embassy in Beijing – which is close to Japan’s mission – when he heard the protest and began recording, he told AFP.
The internationally acclaimed artist said he was ‘surprised’ to see a group of 50 protesters target US Ambassador Gary Locke’s vehicle, surrounding it and damaging its flag.
They pelted it with objects before Chinese police rushed to clear a path for the car to accelerate away from the embassy area.
“I was quite surprised because we all can see the whole demonstration (against Japan) being prepared by officials,” said Ai, who spent 81 days in jail last year as police rounded up dissidents.
Demonstrations against Japan broke out across China over the weekend and on Tuesday.
They were sparked by a row over islands in the East China Sea which Japan administers and calls Senkaku, but China claims and calls Diaoyu.
Locke told reporters of Tuesday’s incident: “It was all over in a matter of minutes. I never felt any danger.”
But he met Chinese foreign ministry officials to “urge them to do everything possible to protect our personnel”.
“The MFA promised a thorough review and to make any adjustments to procedures and protocols to ensure a similar incident does not occur,” he said.
The US State Department says it has “registered its concern” with Chinese authorities.
Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, described it as an “accidental case”.
“The competent authorities are seriously investigating the case and will handle it in accordance with law,” he told reporters. — AFP