News / Asia

Chinese Activists Return From Expedition to Disputed Island

Captain Why Yang of Hong Kong fishing vessel 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
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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More