Thousands of anti-Japanese demonstrators mounted protests in cities across China on Sunday over disputed islands in the East China Sea, a day after an attempt to storm Tokyo's embassy in the capital.
However, this movement of around 40,000 people was not covered by the Chinese national media and the government was successful in censoring information on micro-blogs.
Violence across China
Beijing was infuriated last week when Japan announced it had bought the rocky outcrops and while Chinese authorities often quickly suppress demonstrations, many of Sunday's events took place with police escorting the marchers.
There were reports of violence. Demonstrators in the city of Shenzhen, some holding a banner calling for a "bloodbath" in Tokyo, clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, Hong Kong broadcaster Cable TV showed.
It also showed footage of more than 1,000 protesters burning Japanese flags in the nearby southern city of Guangzhou and storming a hotel next to the Japanese consulate.
The relationship between China and Japan, the world's second and third largest economies, is often strained by their historical rivalry even though they have significant business links.
China’s army of Internet censors
Much of the information about the protests posted online appeared to have been removed by the afternoon by China's army of Internet censors, suggesting that Beijing is aiming to stop the row from spiralling further out of control.
Pictures posted on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, showed marches in half a dozen cities around the country on Sunday. Many of its users complained that they couldn’t search for the term “anti-Japan protests” and many of the protestors’ videos were deleted by Sunday morning.
The protests did not feature on regular news bulletins on the state-run China Central Television on Saturday though they appeared on the front page of the English-language China Daily on Sunday.
Foreign journalists “intimidated”
Press freedom in China has always been a concern not only for local journalists but also for foreign correspondents.
Earlier in August, The Foreign Correspondents' Clubs of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong said they were "extremely concerned" by four recent cases of journalists who had been harassed or subjected to violence while reporting in China.
"We call on the authorities at all levels to ensure that journalists are protected from violence and intimidation," the statement said.
China is ranked 174 out of 179 countries on the Reporter’s Without Borders Press Freedom Index.
Source: AFP, DCMF