Two Panasonic component factories have been vandalized and shut down in China amid the widespread anti-Japanese protests sweeping the country, a company spokeswoman said Monday.
Protestors smashed their way into a component factory in Qingdao, damaging parts of the facility and setting some parts on fire, which triggered on-site sprinkler systems that can harm sensitive manufacturing equipment, spokeswoman Cathy Liu said. A component factory in Suzhou was also damaged when protestors smashed windows and entered the facility.
"We have told all employees (at the factories) to stay home," she said. "We're still looking into when we will be able to put them back into operation. It will probably be sometime after the 19th."
The protests, which media reports say have spread to 85 cities across China and involved tens of thousands, are expected to intensify with the approach of Sept. 19, the anniversary of Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Japan occupied much of the region, which now falls largely in modern China, until the end of World War II, and often oppressed and brutalized local populations.
The latest protests flared up after Japan purchased privately owned land on a disputed set of islands near Taiwan, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, in order to nationalize them. Protests against Japan have often taken place across China in the past, though rarely at the scale and scope of the current activity.
Liu said Panasonic manufactures electronics components for its own use and for external customers, but said the company did not disclose which components it made at which factories, or for whom. Descriptions on the website of Panasonic's device subsidiary show it maintains a factory in Qingdao that makes electronic switches and remote controls, as well as one in Suzhou that produces base materials such as laminates and multi-layer materials.
Videos and images taken in China over the weekend show thousands of protestors facing off with police outside Japanese embassies and consulates, as well as vandalism against other Japanese products and properties, including a Toyota dealership engulfed in flames. Bands of protestors smashed Japanese cars as well as local restaurants that serve sushi and other Japanese fare, with media reports saying the number of protestors reached over 80,000 on Saturday, making the protests the largest in recent history.
While some Japanese products, such as cars and household appliances, are popular in China, and many Japanese companies have factories in China, anti-Japanese sentiment is a part of Chinese nationalism.
On Sunday, the Japanese government said it was watching the situation closely and pledged to do everything in its power to protect Japanese nationals in China.