Taipei, Sept. 16 (CNA) Some Japanese-owned department stores and supermarkets in China have suspended operations amid violent protests in many Chinese cities over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, media reports said Sunday.
Sporadic protests in China over the long-simmering territorial row have became larger and at times violent over the past week and spread to dozens of Chinese cities over the weekend due to Japan's recent unilateral nationalization of the contested island chain in the East China Sea.
Protesters torched a Panasonic factory and Toyota dealership in the eastern port of Qingdao, looted a Heiwado Co. department store in Changsha, Hunan Province and ransacked Japanese supermarkets in several cities, according to an AP report.
Commercial Radio Hong Kong quoted a Heiwado Co. spokesman as saying Sunday that the company's three stores in Changsha will remain closed until after the Mukden Incident anniversary, which falls on Sept. 18.
The company shut down its stores in the central China city since one of them was looted by Chinese protesters Saturday.
Another Japanese department store Mitsukoshi Isedan said its store in Chengdu, Sichuan Province was shut down Sunday in the face of anti-Japan protests in the southwestern China city, the Hong Kong radio station said.
JUSCO supermarket group said it has ordered all of its more than 40 stores around China to suspend operations if any of them is attacked by Chinese mobsters again.
Political analysts said the latest flare-up of tension over the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, couldn't have come at a worse time as China will mark the 81st anniversary of the tragic Mukden Incident Sept. 18.
The Mukden Incident refers to Japanese Imperial Army's attack on the barracks of Chinese troops in Shenyang on Sept. 18, 1931. The move marked the beginning of the Japanese invasion and occupation of northeastern China that lasted until the end of World War II in 1945.
Some observers said China's public security authorities may tighten control of anti-Japan protests because they would not like to see the public outcry over the territorial dispute going out of control ahead the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
On Sunday, Chinese police fired tear gas to subdue rowdy protesters in the southern city of Shenzhen, according to media reports.
The Diaoyutai island group has been under Japan's administrative control since 1972, but it is also claimed by Taiwan and China.
(By Rita Cheng and Sofia Wu)