image

Diaoyu Islands

Fearless HK activists ready to face Japanese navy over Diaoyu Islands

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 2:03pm

Hong Kong activists who are heading to the disputed Diaoyu Islands to support China's claim of sovereignty say they are prepared to confront Japanese navy vessels.

They said they would not be deterred despite media reports that Japan - which claims sovereignty over what it calls the Senkaku Islands - was considering sending military ships to stop them.

Activists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China initially planned to undertake the voyage together, but the mainlanders yesterday said they would withdraw.

The Hong Kong activists' vessel had a bad start, as much of their food rations fell overboard amid the rough seas. Organisers said they hoped to restock Kai Fung No2, with 14 people on board, in Taiwan.

The vessel has eight activists from Hong Kong, Macau, and a mainlander, Fang Xiaosong. The remaining six are sailors and reporters.

The vessel, which left on Sunday, was expected to reach the sea off Taiwan's Yilan county today, said Chan Yue-nam, head of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands. Chan said there had been only "minor interference" from Hong Kong marine officials, which blocked six previous attempts.

Mainland activist Chen Duowei said the protesters had planned to sail to the Diaoyus from Xiamen in Fujian province yesterday, but the plan might have to be scrapped. Chen declined to discuss the reason, but said the activists were planning an anti-Japan protest in Beijing tomorrow.

Around six activists in Taiwan had planned to start their journey today or tomorrow to join their Hong Kong counterparts. Hsieh Meng-lin, of the Chung Hwa Baodiao Alliance, yesterday said he hoped to meet the Hong Kong activists near Pengchai Islet, off Taiwan's northernmost tip.

But Chan last night said they learned from that Taiwanese authorities would not allow their vessels to leave for the disputed islets from Keelung port, forcing them to cancel plans to meet in Yilan.

Chan said Kai Fung No2 would head straight to the Diaoyus this morning after taking supplies at Makung port at Penghu.

Li Nan , a convenor of the China Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, said mainland officials usually barred activists from joining the campaign. "But Fang is quite new to the Diaoyu campaign, and it is easier for him to escape the authorities' surveillance," Li said.

Hong Kong media quoted reports by the Sankei newspaper that Tokyo would consider deploying military forces to intercept the activists.

But Chan said: "Even if the Taiwanese and mainland groups are unable to go as planned, we shall proceed. We fear no Japanese navy. We shall do our best to get as close as possible to the islands."

Chan and 10 activists from his committee yesterday petitioned the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army, asking the PLA to send ships to protect the activists.

He said their boat was boarded by four marine police officers on Sunday, but the activists refused to turn back and the officers left.

Hong Kong's Marine Department said Kai Fung No2 was registered as a class three vessel, which could be used only for fishing. It said the owner, agent and coxswain faced fines of up to HK$10,000 for breaches.

The Office of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday said the government respected Hongkongers' right to express their views.

Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said he believed Leung received Beijing's implicit approval to treat the activists with leniency.