x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

China's Ai Weiwei: anti-Japan protests 'prepared'

Anti-Japan protests in China were encouraged by leaders in Beijing, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said yesterday, after he filmed demonstrators damaging the US ambassador's car.

BEIJING, // Anti-Japan protests in China were encouraged by leaders in Beijing, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said yesterday, after he filmed demonstrators damaging the US ambassador's car.

Ai was visiting a friend's apartment near the US embassy in Beijing - which is close to Japan's mission - when he heard the protest and began recording.

The internationally acclaimed artist said he was "surprised" to see a group of 50 protesters target US Ambassador Gary Locke's vehicle, surrounding it and damaging its flag.

They pelted it with objects before Chinese police rushed to clear a path for the car to accelerate away from the embassy area.

"I was quite surprised because we all can see the whole demonstration [against Japan] being prepared by officials," said Ai, who spent 81 days in jail last year as police rounded up dissidents.

Mr Locke told reporters of Tuesday's incident: "It was all over in a matter of minutes. I never felt any danger."

But he met Chinese foreign ministry officials to "urge them to do everything possible to protect our personnel".

Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, described it as an "accidental case".