News / Asia

Chinese Activists Return From Expedition to Disputed Island

Captain Why Yang of Hong Kong fishing vessel "Kai Fung No.2" waves next to a Chinese national flag as he reaches in Hong Kong's island of Cheung Chau, August 22, 2012. Captain Why Yang of Hong Kong fishing vessel "Kai Fung No.2" waves next to a Chinese national flag as he reaches in Hong Kong's island of Cheung Chau, August 22, 2012.
x
Captain Why Yang of Hong Kong fishing vessel "Kai Fung No.2" waves next to a Chinese national flag as he reaches in Hong Kong's island of Cheung Chau, August 22, 2012.
Captain Why Yang of Hong Kong fishing vessel "Kai Fung No.2" waves next to a Chinese national flag as he reaches in Hong Kong's island of Cheung Chau, August 22, 2012.
Ivan Broadhead
HONG KONG — After causing a diplomatic incident by planting the Chinese flag on the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands last week, a group of Chinese nationalists from Hong Kong arrived home Wednesday. Their announcement of a plan to return to the disputed islands, known as the Diaoyus in Chinese, threatens to escalate tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.

The fishing boat Kai Fung 2 slipped into Hong Kong Wednesday, its seven-man crew greeted as Chinese patriots after landing on the disputed Senkaku islands August 15, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender.

Diplomatic incident

The activists sailed home from Okinawa after they were released from Japanese custody, having challenged Tokyo’s sovereignty over the territory located in the East China Sea, some 160 kilometers from Taiwan, 400 kilometers from Okinawa.

David Ko of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, the group that organized the mission, accuses Japanese authorities of mistreating the detained crew.

"The room they were locked in was small and they had to urinate in a bottle," he said. "As you can see from the TV, at times they were handcuffed with a rope tied around their waist. As far as we’re concerned, that’s humiliating."

The islands constitute eight rocks measuring scarcely seven square kilometers. But their waters contain rich fishing grounds and potentially significant oil reserves.

Japanese landing

The action provoked Japanese nationalists to stage their own landing on the uninhabited islands this week. This sparked the largest anti-Japanese protests in China since 2005.

Despite Sino-Japanese tensions running high, Ko says plans are now being formulated for the Hong Kong activists to return to the disputed territory later this year.

"Territorial politics are changing," he said. "The Americans have shifted their focus back to the Pacific. And, China is unwilling to be surrounded. This is going to be a trouble spot in the near future - the South China Sea, all the way up to the north China Sea."

Possible policy shift in Beijing

Hong Kong activists make regular efforts to reach the Senkakus, but for two years have been restrained by the authorities in this special administrative region of China.

Analyst Johnny Lau suggests that the fact this was not the case with the Kai Fung 2 indicates a clear policy shift by the central government in Beijing.

"In 2021, Japan will stress it has controlled the Diaoyus for 50 years," he said. "In international law, Japan can [then] officially claim they are under [its] sovereignty. So the Chinese government has to do something to stop this. That is why they will try to use more assistance from the general public."

However, the Basic Law - Hong Kong’s mini-constitution drafted by Britain and China at the end of colonial rule in 1997 - strictly limits Hong Kong’s role in Chinese foreign affairs.

Debate about the constitutionality of the Diaoyu mission is noticeable by its absence. Even Hong Kong media reports that the government chief executive, CY Leung, helped fund the voyage of the Kai Fung 2 provoked little comment.

Any donation made in a private capacity is one thing, says Professor Bing Ling of the faculty of law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  He says it is quite another if a donation was an official gift from the head of government.

"If that is the case, one would have to ask if the Hong Kong government has obtained authorization from Beijing to participate in and authorize this expedition. Obviously, if it does not have such authorization, it could not and should not have taken a step that directly implicates China in this territorial dispute," he said.

Who are the activists?

What has fueled discussion in Hong Kong about the ship’s mission is the unlikely political constituency represented aboard the Kai Fung 2. The majority of the Hong Kong activists landing on the disputed islands are renowned pro-democracy supporters.

More used to demanding China expand civic freedoms in Hong Kong than fighting the central government’s battles, several have faced jail for opposing Beijing.  However, Lau argues  that it is not inconsistent for pro-democrats to share the Communist Party’s views on pan-Chinese nationalism.

"They are described as dissidents by the Chinese government. But they went to the Diaoyu Islands to show the sovereignty of the Chinese government. [Now] the official Chinese media describes them as national heroes. The protection of the Diaoyus is a very unique issue," said Lau.

Sino-Japanese relations seem unlikely to improve in the short term. Chinese state media criticized Japan Tuesday for beginning a joint military exercise with the United States that they linked to Tokyo’s defense of its island territories.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong activists are planning a day of national protest against Japan September 18, marking the 81st anniversary of the Japanese invasion of northern China. This event, widely known as the Manchurian Incident, preceded the Second Sino-Japanese war by some six years.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid