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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 12:55 GMT
Chinese demonstrate over islands
Chinese protesters
Demonstrators called for the release of the Chinese activists
Chinese protesters have demonstrated in Beijing against Japan's detention of seven activists who landed on disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The seven were detained on the Senkaku islands, which are administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.

About 30 Chinese demonstrators gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing to demand the activists' immediate release and to burn a Japanese flag.

China's government had given permission for the demonstrators' actions.

The protest had grown to around 100 people by Thursday afternoon, according to reports.


The incident has threatened to reignite a simmering dispute between China and Japan.

Both sides have officially complained to the other about the issue.

Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, said that he hoped the incident would not damage relations.

"However, we maintain our firm position that the Senkaku are Japanese territory," he said.

But China has reasserted its own claim.

"The Diaoyu Islands are without a doubt China's territory," said China's State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan, using the Chinese name for the islands.

China and Taiwan both renewed their claim to the Senkaku Islands in the 1970s after oil deposits were found nearby.

They were declared Japanese territory in 1895 and fall under the jurisdiction of Japan's southern Okinawa prefecture.

In recent years a number of expeditions to the islands have been launched by activists claiming them as Chinese territory.

The BBC's Jonathan Head
"The islands would matter little but for the possibility of oil"

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