HONG KONG - A group of Chinese activists landed on an island chain disputed with Japan on Wednesday, staking their claim of sovereignty despite warnings from the Japanese coastguard in a move bound to infuriate Tokyo.
The Hong Kong fishing vessel, carrying around a dozen
activists from Hong Kong, Macau and China, was closely tailed by
around a dozen Japanese coastguard vessels and pummelled with
water cannon, but activists still managed to break through.
The seven who made it ashore yelled in jubilation over a
satellite phone after their landing and sang Chinese patriotic
The fate of the activists isn’t yet known. A Japanese
Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “We will take appropriate
action including law enforcement.” He didn’t elaborate.
The uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known as
Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are in resource-rich
waters around 180 km east of Taiwan’s Keelung port.
They have long been the centre of maritime territorial
disputes between China and its neighbours, all of which cite
historical and other claims over fishing areas and potentially
rich gas deposits.
Tension between Japan and its neighbours was already high on
Wednesday, the 67th anniversary of the end of World War Two, as
South Korea and China both told Tokyo to do much more to resolve
lingering bitterness over its past military aggression.
Despite close economic ties in one of the world’s wealthiest
regions, memories of Japan’s wartime occupation of much of China
and colonisation of South Korea run deep in the two countries.
The last time Chinese activists landed on the isles was in
2004 during the tenure of former premier Junichiro Koizumi, and
Japan deported them without a trial.
In 2010, however, Japan detained a Chinese captain after his
fishing vessel collided with a Japanese patrol boat.
Chan Miu-tak, a spokesman for the Action Committee for
Defending the Diaoyu Islands, said the Hong Kong-registered boat
was closely tailed by over 10 Japan coast guard vessels as it
neared the disputed islands and was sprayed by water cannon.
China issued a statement earlier saying it was paying close
attention and demanding Japan not do anything to endanger the
A small group of activists in Beijing also staged a
demonstration outside the Japanese embassy, brandishing banners
asserting China’s sovereignty over the isles.