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Japan to deport Diaoyu activists, including five who landed on disputed island

The 14 Chinese nationals who sailed to disputed islands, including seven protesters who landed, will be sent home without charge, reports say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 August, 2012, 9:02am

Japan decided yesterday to deport 14 Chinese nationals, including five arrested after landing on the disputed Diaoyu Islands on Wednesday, amid diplomatic tensions with China, according to Japanese media.

The group would not be prosecuted for illegal entry and they were expected to leave Japan this evening at the earliest, the Kyodo News Agency reported.

Seven activists landed on the biggest of the islands, called Diaoyu by Chinese.

However, the Japanese coastguard said it arrested only five for landing on the island and breaching immigration laws. Nine other people, including the boat's crew and two journalists, were arrested at sea as the vessel, the Kai Fung No2, prepared to move away from the island, the coastguard said.

The first five - Tsang Kin-shing, Koo Sze-yiu and Lo Chung-cheong from Hong Kong, mainlander Fang Xiaosong and Ng Shek-yiu from Macau - were taken in handcuffs to the port of Naha by Okinawa prefectural police.

"Down with Japanese militarism! Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory. Get out!" they shouted as they were led ashore.

They were detained separately in four police stations for questioning. All denied a charge of illegal entry.

The other nine arrested arrived at Naha at 9pm.

Coastguard official Yoshiyuki Terakado said Japan would make a decision on all 14 by tonight, but declined to elaborate.

The protest group left Hong Kong on Sunday for the uninhabited islands aboard the Kai Fung No2, a fishing vessel.

The vessel was intercepted several times by Japanese coastguard vessels before seven activists landed, some of whom tried to plant the national flag and a Taiwanese flag. The mainland, Taiwan and Japan all claim sovereignty of the Diaoyus.

They were soon arrested, along with the rest of the party.

It was the first time Hong Kong activists had landed on the Diaoyus since 1996.

Two immigration officers and an official from the Chinese embassy in Tokyo flew to Naha to see the detainees. Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun called for the group's unconditional release yesterday and lodged "solemn representations" with Japan during a phone call to Japanese counterpart Sasae Kenichiro.

In Hong Kong, politicians, students and patriotic groups protested in front of the Japanese consulate to demand the release of the 14.

Chan Yue-nam, leader of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, which planned the voyage, said the arrested activists would not recognise any trial by the Japanese government, "as that would mean they acknowledged the legitimacy for the arrest and agreed that the islands belong to Japan".

Yang Bojiang, from the University of International Relations in Beijing, said the quick handling of the saga suggested that "Tokyo does not want to have serious confrontations with Beijing … The early, unconditional release of all the activists will keep the shock to bilateral ties at a controllable level".

A spokesman for Taiwan's Foreign Ministry, Steve Hsia, said it had asked Japan to release the activists. He was careful not to link Taiwan's call to the mainland's calls for cross-strait co-operation.

He said Taipei would continue to secure its sovereignty over the Diaoyus, such as by dispatching coastguard patrol vessels.



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