China warns citizens ahead of Manila protest on Friday

MANILA Wed May 9, 2012 8:20am EDT

An activist burns a flag of China during a protest to demand that the Chinese government pull out from the Scarborough Shoal during a rally in front of the Chinese consular office in Makati's financial district of Manila May 8, 2012. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

An activist burns a flag of China during a protest to demand that the Chinese government pull out from the Scarborough Shoal during a rally in front of the Chinese consular office in Makati's financial district of Manila May 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Cheryl Ravelo

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MANILA (Reuters) - China warned its citizens in Manila to stay off the streets and take precautions during planned anti-Chinese protests on Friday, a sign of mounting tensions during a standoff in the resource-rich South China Sea.

The planned protest of about 1,000 people could heighten tensions between China and the Philippines over what is known as the Scarborough Shoal in English and Huangyan island in Chinese in the southeastern region of the disputed waters.

On Tuesday, China's embassy in Manila posted an advisory on its website asking its citizens to stay indoors, avoid demonstrations and refrain from confrontations with locals, anticipating a "large-scale" anti-China protest on Friday.

That coincided with a stern warning from Beijing that China had made "every preparation" to counter what it called potential expansion of the conflict by the Philippines, one of Washington's closest allies in Asia.

Civil society and political groups with links to President Benigno Aquino's political allies plan to take to the streets on Friday to protest the Chinese presence in the Scarborough shoal, which Manila says is within its jurisdiction.

A spokesman of China's foreign ministry accused Manila of using the standoff to incite domestic opinion, adding it has "damaged the atmosphere of Sino-Philippine relations".

The protest organizers plan similar actions in China's embassies and consulates in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy and other Asian capitals.

"We are seeking a peaceful solution through political and diplomatic means," said Risa Hontiveros, a former lawmaker and member of Akbayan party, one of the protest organizers.

Akbayan is among political parties allied with Aquino. Its leader, Ronald Llamas, sits in the cabinet as political adviser and two of its members in the lower house of congress organized a trip to the contested Spratly island last year.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement Washington has reaffirmed its commitment to help Manila if violence erupts in the disputed seas, citing a 1951 mutual defense pact with the United States.

The warning by Beijing comes as tensions in the South China Sea enter a new and more contentious chapter, with claimant nations searching deeper into disputed waters for energy supplies while building up their navies and military alliances, especially with the United States.

Proven and undiscovered oil reserve estimates in the South China Sea range as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a 2008 report. That would surpass every country's proven oil reserves except Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to the BP Statistical Review.

China, which claims the South China Sea as its territory based on historical records, has disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan over the waters.

The standoff in the shoal began in April when a Philippines Navy surveillance plane spotted eight Chinese fishing boats in the area. Manila responded by sending its largest warship, a U.S. Hamilton-class cutter, to check on the Chinese presence.

That standoff now involves four Chinese maritime surveillance ships and eight Chinese fishing boats, and a Filipino coast guard ship and several fishing boats.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato in MANILA and Chris Buckley in BEIJING; Editing by Rosemarie Francisco, Jason Szep and Ed Lane)

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Comments (13)
DifferentOne wrote:
China’s frightening military buildup is possible only because we allow China to manipulate the Yuan to gain an unfair advantage in world trade.

Of course, USA consumers like buying cheap Chinese-made goods in Wal-Mart. And mega corporations like the profits they earn by importing cheap Chinese products. But now we are starting to see the price we will pay for our shortsightedness:

1) A huge buildup of military power by China, which is not a democracy.

2) An expensive arms race with the USA.

3) An expensive military conflict between China and the USA in the Pacific that could drag on for years.

China should not be allowed continued access to USA markets as long as it continues to manipulate its currency. China should be required to allow its currency to float freely, as do all major currencies. We all need to play by the same rules. China must stop cheating.

America needs strong leadership on this now.

May 09, 2012 10:10am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Spacetime wrote:
The US economy is just too inefficient to compete with China. The us midclass more and more relies on China’s low cost / high quality product to maintain their luxuary living status. Fighting with China means fighting with the poor and middle classes. They would curse you down to the hell.

May 09, 2012 10:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DragonTattooz wrote:
DifferentOne nailed it.

China is our enemy, if you do not understand that, then you do not have a grasp of what is going on in the world. Purchasing Chinese goods is tantamount to treason as far as I’m concerned. Yes, I do purchase Chinese garbage when I have no choice, BUT I research my purchases and I buy American, or other than Chinese, whenever possible. One thing that surprised me is how many food items are coming from China. READ THE LABEL!!!

May 09, 2012 11:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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