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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hu concludes summit with Osaka, Nara events

Security thick as pro-Tibet demonstrators dog Chinese leader


Staff writer

NARA — Amid the tightest security of his trip, Chinese President Hu Jintao concluded his visit to Japan in the Kansai region this weekend, dining with Osaka political and business leaders on Friday night and seeing the sights in the ancient capital of Nara on Saturday.

News photo
Nice to meet you: Chinese President Hu Jintao shakes hands with Shunkai Matsuura, head of Toshodaiji Temple, in Nara in front of a model of an ancient Chinese ship Hu donated to the temple on Saturday. AP PHOTO

The Chinese president was dogged by pro-Tibet independence demonstrators Saturday in Nara, where a scuffle between police and protesters broke out at Toshodaiji Temple, which was founded in 759 by Ganjin, the Chinese Buddhist priest who was invited to Japan to train Japanese monks.

One person was taken away and another was slightly injured, an eyewitness said.

"About 100 people, including about 50 demonstrators, gathered at Toshodaiji and were quietly demonstrating. But when one of the demonstrators cried out 'Free Tibet,' five plainclothes policemen jumped on him and took him away," said Fumiko Tanaka, a Nara resident who took part in the demonstration.

"We were quickly surrounded by the police, and in the pushing and shoving, the person beside me fell," she said.

Nara Prefectural Police confirmed that there was a demonstration at Toshodaiji Temple but said they were unable to confirm whether anyone was arrested.

Fearing pro-Tibetan democracy and human rights protests of the kind that occurred during Hu's stay in Tokyo last week, police beefed up their presence Friday in central Osaka, where Hu met with Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto, other prefectural governors, and about 150 members of the Kansai business community.

Nearly two weeks before Hu's visit and not long after the Olympic torch passed through Japan, Osaka subway stations began broadcasting announcements asking people to cooperate with police, saying they were performing spot checks of pedestrians and cars in advance of the G8 finance ministers meeting in June.

News photo
Bowing to a Buddhist: Chinese President Hu Jintao prays for Ganjin, the Chinese priest who spent more than 10 years getting to Japan to teach Buddhism and founded Toshodaiji Temple in 759, at his grave in Nara on Saturday. KYODO PHOTO

However, an official of the Osaka Prefectural Government, speaking anonymously, admitted that the real reason the checks began in April was the Hu visit.

Security in Nara was even tighter Saturday after local media reported that the pro-Tibet demonstration would take place.

Police officers from not only Nara, but also Kyoto and Aichi Prefectures were patrolling Nara Park early Saturday morning.

Hu's visit to Nara also included stops at Horyuji temple, a World Heritage Site, and the remains of the former Nara Palace.

Since Hu's trip to Kansai was about promoting trade and cultural ties, local politicians and business leaders, visibly nervous at the prospect of demonstrations disrupting the visit, went out of their way to avoid all references to political issues.

An Osaka-based NGO sent a written appeal to Osaka Gov. Hashimoto calling on him to raise the issue of China's persecution of the Falun Gong with Hu. But the Osaka governor avoided human rights issues during a meeting with Hu held just before hosting a formal dinner.

"I prefer to leave political issues to Tokyo," Hashimoto told reporters after the dinner.

Instead, Hu and Kansai business leaders discussed ways in which environmental technology exchanges between the two countries could further progress.

Hashimoto, who has already visited Shanghai, has promised that Osaka Prefecture — despite its ¥5 trillion deficit and sweeping budget cut proposals for the next fiscal year — will exhibit at the Shanghai Expo in 2010.

Nara Gov. Shogo Arai, along with transport minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba and two dozen members of Nara's economic and cultural communities, met with Hu for about an hour and a half on Saturday afternoon.

Hu gave a bust of Ganjin to the Nara Prefectural Government as a present.



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