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Japanese firms brace for violence in China over disputed islands (+video)

Panasonic and Canon announced shutdowns in China on Monday, and firms urged expatriates to stay indoors after protests over Japan's purchase of disputed Islands got out of hand Saturday.

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Japanese companies and expatriates in China battened down the hatches Monday, bracing for another wave of anti-Japanese violence in a continuing crisis over ownership of a disputed group of islands.

Japanese schools closed until further notice, Panasonic and Canon announced they were suspending operations at their Chinese plants, and Japanese firms were quietly advised by the authorities to keep their doors closed on Tuesday.

“We now have very ominous signs that this will be a lasting crisis,”  Zhu Feng, a professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University, warns. “At the moment there is no contact at any level between the two sides, though they urgently need to talk.”

The defensive moves followed a weekend of demonstrations in more than 20 Chinese cities that saw demonstrators attack Japanese diplomatic facilities, restaurants, and other businesses. Toyota and Honda auto dealerships were set on fire in the port city of Qingdao Saturday.

The officially sanctioned demonstrations, which gathered tens of thousands of people across the country, were called to express anger at the Japanese government’s decision last week to purchase from their private owner three of the disputed islands in the East China Sea. The uninhabited rocky outcrops are known in China – which claims sovereignty over them – as the Diaoyu, and in Japan – which controls them - as the Senkaku islands.

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