China warns citizens ahead of Philippine protest
MANILA, Philippines — China has warned its citizens living in the Philippines to stay indoors on Friday while a protest is held near the Chinese embassy over an increasingly tense territorial dispute.
A coalition of Filipino activist groups is planning to hold rallies at Chinese embassies around the world to support the Philippine government amid an increasingly hostile row with China over a shoal in the South China Sea.
Organizers are hoping thousands of people will attend what they expect to be the biggest of the rallies, in Manila, and the Chinese embassy has circulated an advisory ahead of the protest.
“Avoid going out at all if possible, and if not, to avoid going out alone,” said the advisory, which was posted on the embassy’s website in Chinese.
“If you come across any demonstrations, leave the area, do not stay to watch.”
The advisory also asked Chinese citizens to obey local laws while keeping a low profile to avoid coming into conflict with Filipinos.
Jackson Gan, a Filipino-Chinese businessman who is among the organisers of Friday’s rally, said there was no need for such a warning because the protest would not target individuals and there had been no inciting of violence.
“This is going to be peaceful. No burning of Chinese flags, just singing of patriotic songs and making our presence felt,” Gan told Agence France-Presse.
China claims virtually all of the South China Sea as its territory, even waters close to the coasts of the Philippines and other Asian countries.
Since April 8 it has been locked in a stand-off with the Philippines over the disputed Scarborough Shoal, with both sides maintaining ships in the area to assert sovereignty.
The shoal sits about 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon. The nearest major Chinese landmass is 1,200 kilometres northwest of the shoal, according to Filipino navy maps.
China warned this week it was ready for “any escalation” in the dispute, after an editorial in a newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party called for a small-scale war to end the standoff.
The Philippines has said it remained committed to solving the dispute peacefully.
But it also said it had secured a pledge from its key military ally, the United States, that it would protect it from attacks in the South China Sea.
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