Hu Jintao visits Waseda

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President Hu Jintao’s upbeat visit to Japan has been going well so far. He has had friendly discussions with Prime Minister Fukuda, dined with the Emperor, played ping pong for the cameras, and has offered to rent two new pandas to the Ueno Zoo.

However, positive speeches and photo ops are not enough to quell the discontent among certain groups in Japan, and crowds of protesters were on hand when he visited Waseda University yesterday:

In a speech at Tokyo’s Waseda University, Hu touched on Japan’s 1931-1945 occupation of part of China, calling it “unfortunate history” that had brought terrible suffering. But he said there should be no grudges between the two neighbors. History is the textbook richest in wisdom, and to remember history is not to nurse hatred, but to use history as a mirror and look forward to the future, Hu said in a speech broadcast live on both Japanese and Chinese television.

Yet even as Hu spoke in the strictly guarded hall, protests and scuffles outside were a reminder of China’s image problems and a crackdown in restive Tibet that have magnified public wariness of Beijing in Japan and other countries. About 200 demonstrators waved signs outside the university gate saying “Free Tibet” and “No Pandas, No Poison Dumplings.” Hu has offered to lend two pandas to a Tokyo zoo, but many Japanese worry more about a row over Chinese-made dumplings laced with pesticide that made several people ill.

For a firsthand account of the protests at Waseda, check out this post at Swifty’s blog (includes photos).

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