Washington: In an escalating row over Japan`s "purchase" of the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, thousands of Chinese marched in US cities to voice support for Beijing`s sovereignty claim over the islands, and asked America to take a neutral stand on the issue.
Around 1,000 Chinese, organised by the Houston Diaoyu Islands Coalition, gathered Saturday in Chinatown area of Houston to oppose the Japanese government`s "provocative" move, Xinhua reported.
The Japanese government recently formally signed a contract to "purchase" part of the Diaoyu Islands, triggering widespread anti-Japanese protests in China.
The Chinese crowd in Houston shouted slogans like "Diaoyu Islands Belong to China", "Protect Our Land And Rights to Fish", and "Diaoyu Islands Should Not Be Covered by Security Treaty Between the US And Japan".
A plane, hired by the China Peaceful Development Alliance-Houston, hovered above the marching crowd, with a banner hanging from it that read "Diaoyu Islands Belong to China", Xinhua said.
The disputed islands in the East China Sea, also claimed by Taiwan, lie on a vital shipping route and are surrounded by large hydrocarbon deposits beneath them.
Japan says it has controlled the islands since 1895 until its surrender at the end of World War II.
The islands were controlled by the US from 1945 to 1972 and subsequently returned to Japan`s control. China claims the islands` discovery and control since the 14th century.
Tokyo says its rivals only became vocal over the issue in the 1970s upon the discovery of valuable minerals.
Steven Pei, chairman of the Houston group, said: "We, as ordinary Chinese people, support every effort by the Chinese government to safeguard its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. Japan`s militarism and expansionism should not be given any chance to have its way."
Becky Li, president of the National Association of Chinese Americans in Houston, said: "We want to send a message to the US government that it should take a neutral stand on the issue and should not harm the Chinese people`s feelings."
In Chicago`s Chinatown Square, more than 60 overseas Chinese organisations and business entities joined in a protest against Japan`s move.
The protesters beat drums and sang Chinese patriotic songs, and many waved Chinese and American flags as they shouted anti-Japan slogans.
Chinese activists also launched a signature petition to be submitted to the US government and Congress over the issue.
The petition asks the US to take a neutral stance over the Diaoyu Islands issue.
On Sep 18, Chinese-Americans in Chicago plan to present a written protest over Diaoyu Islands to the Japanese consulate in Chicago.
China`s State Oceanic Administration Saturday announced details about the exact longitude and latitude of the Diaoyu Island and 70 of its affiliated islets. It published location maps, three-dimension effect graphs and sketch maps for the islands, Xinhua reported.