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Protests in Philippines over China dispute

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Anti-China protests have taken place in the capital of the Philippines over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

About 1,000 people gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Manila to protest against what they say are Chinese intrusions, as tensions increase in a long-standing dispute over the Scarborough Shoal islands claimed by both countries.

"Our protest is directed at the overbearing actions and stance of the government in Beijing, which behaves like an arrogant overlord, even in the homes of its neighbours," said rally organiser Loida Nicholas Lewis.

The protesters carried placards that read: "China stop bullying the Philippines", "Make Peace Not War", and "China, Stop Poaching in Philippine Waters".

China on Thursday warned its citizens that they were not safe in the Philippines and urged those in the country to stay indoors and stay away from demonstrations. Taiwan issued a similar warning to its citizen, while Chinese travel agents said they were suspending tours to the Philippines.

Philippine officials said they expected the Manila rally to be peaceful.

In Beijing, authorities stepped up security around the Philippines' embassy, with squads of police waiting in streets near the mission and plainclothes guards also monitoring passers-by.

Tensions over territorial rights in the South China Sea have been building since a standoff between Chinese ships and a Philippine naval vessel near the Scarborough Shoal islands early last month.

China insists it has sovereign rights to all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coast of other countries and hundreds of miles from its own mainland.

The Philippines says it has sovereign rights over waters within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and that its position is supported by international law.

Apart from China and the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, also have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and other resources, making the waters one of Asia's potential flashpoints for armed conflict.

China's official military newspaper said on Friday that a US shift in strategy to increase its influence in the south Asia had emboldened Manila, a key Washington regional ally, in its dispute with Beijing.

"The United States' shift in strategic focus to the east and its entry into the South China Sea issue has provided the Philippines with room for strategic manoeuvre, and to certain extent increased the Philippines' chips to play against us, emboldening them to take a risky course," said the Liberation Army Daily.


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