BEIJING - HUNDREDS of people staged an anti-Japan protest in southwestern China on Saturday, even as school officials there ordered students to attend classes over the weekend in hopes of preventing a repeat of rowdy demonstrations over the past weeks.

Rumours had been circulating that students in several cities would protest again this weekend, following several demonstrations that vented anger with Japan for its detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain.

A large crowd began gathering on Saturday morning at Deyang city's Confucian Temple Square and demonstrators marched in the afternoon, said a woman surnamed Zhang who works in a nearby music shop. There were hundreds of people and the square was packed, she said.

The anti-Japan protesters were mostly students, said a man surnamed Ye who works at an optical shop close to the square and saw the march pass by about 3 pm.

The protest took place despite a heavy police presence, Ms Zhang said. By evening, the protesters had left but many police remained in the square.

It was not known whether there was any violence or clashes with police.

Phones at the Deyang city government and police department rang unanswered on Saturday evening.

More anti-Japan protests