Chinese police have detained an Internet surfer for trying to organise an anti-Japanese protest in the eastern city of Nanjing on the upcoming Labour Day holiday, state media said today.
It was the strongest signal to date China is seeking to head off a repeat of violent protests across the country this month against what many Chinese see as Japan's whitewashing of its wartime past.
Japanese politicians have often incurred Beijing's wrath by challenging China's account of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, in which Beijing says as many as 300,000 Chinese men, women and children were slaughtered by rampaging Japanese troops in the former Chinese capital.
The 1948 Tokyo war crimes tribunal found Japanese troops killed 155,000 people in Nanjing, mainly women and children.
Nanjing's Yangzi Evening News said the 20-year-old detained man, who used the name YMAKELOVE on the Internet, called for people in a popular chatroom to learn from demonstrators in Beijing and Shanghai, where thousands pelted Japanese diplomatic compounds with rocks and bottles.
He also threatened to detonate car bombs during the protests "for increased influence", it said.
The man spent the evenings of April 19 and 20 advocating the protests in the chatroom before police tracked him to an Internet cafe and detained him in the early morning hours of April 21.
Police said he dropped out of college last year because of a poor academic performance and accused him of "fabricating and spreading false terror information".
China's Public Security Ministry vowed on Thursday, the day the man was detained, to "resolutely punish" anyone who took part in "unapproved demonstrations".
The detention follows a major propaganda campaign by the Communist Party to discourage its citizens from "hating Japan" following the protests in major cities which helped drag Sino-Japanese relations to their worst state in decades.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made an unusually public apology on Friday for Japan's atrocities in Asia and met China's leader Hu Jintao on Saturday on the sidelines of a summit in Jakarta, where the two agreed to try to mend ruptured ties.
On Sunday night, state-controlled China Central Television's flagship news broadcast highlighted comments from ordinary Chinese expressing their opposition to "irrational anti-Japan sentiment and boycotts of Japanese goods".
The mood contrasted sharply with that of protesters who burned Japanese flags, attacked Japanese businesses and their missions with bottles and rocks and called their diplomats "pigs" and "dwarfs".
On the news broadcast, a young woman in Beijing said she was surprised to find out her favourite brand of makeup, while made in China, was actually Japanese.
A man at the Shanghai Auto Show said enthusiastically that Chinese should learn from Japan, from strong management skills to how to make good cars.
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