China Investigates Demonstration Around U.S. Ambassador’s Car

Posted September 20th, 2012 at 12:05 am (UTC-5)
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China has promised to investigate an incident where a group of Chinese protesters surrounded the car of U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, pelted it with objects, and blocked its entry to the American embassy in Beijing.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland says that Chinese authorities have also expressed regret for the Tuesday incident, which occurred during a day of heated anti-Japan protests across China.

“On September 18th, approximately 50 Chinese demonstrators surrounded Ambassador Locke's official vehicle as it attempted to enter the embassy compound. They caused minor damage to the vehicle. Ambassador Locke himself was unharmed. There were Chinese security personnel standing in front of the compound. They responded and removed demonstrators from the scene, which allowed the ambassador's car to move forward.”

Locke told reporters that he was unharmed and did not feel in danger during the incident, but said he met with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials to express concerns and to urge them to do “everything possible” to protect U.S. embassy personnel. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei called the incident “an individual case,” but said China was investigating it.

The incident came just days after a mob attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomatic staff during protests against a U.S.-made anti-Islam video. Security has been ramped up at U.S. diplomatic offices around the world following the attacks.

Nuland said Wednesday that the Beijing incident did not appear to be related to the recent wave of anti-U.S. protests that have broken out in many Muslim-majority countries. She said it was likely a “target of opportunity” for demonstrators returning from a protest at the nearby Japanese Embassy.

Thousands of Chinese took to the streets Tuesday on the sensitive anniversary of the Japanese invasion of northern China in 1931. China and Japan have been engaged in an increasingly bitter dispute over a group of islands in the East China Sea.

On Wednesday, Nuland again reiterated Washington's position that it does not take sides on the question of the sovereignty of the islands and urged China and Japan to resolve the dispute through peaceful means.

Some Chinese have questioned Washington's neutrality in the debate, since Tokyo is a strong ally of Washington and boasts a security treaty that ensures U.S. support in case of an attack on its territory.