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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid