Legco election candidates and other politicians who joined the crowd welcoming the return of the Diaoyu activists defended themselves against accusations that they were just seeking exposure to help their campaigns.
Told by hecklers to "stop stealing publicity", they said they were there to show their support like everyone else.
Among the candidates who showed up at the Tsim Sha Tsui pier were Lau Kong-wah of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party and Frederick Fung Kin-kee of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood.
They are among those running for five new so-called super seats in the functional constituency for district councils, for which 3.2 million voters citywide - all those without a vote in any other functional constituency - are eligible to cast ballots.
Although they carried no political badges or logos, their presence was not welcomed by some in the crowd, who repeatedly yelled: "What the hell does it have to do with you here? Stop stealing publicity."
Lau said he came as a Hongkonger who cared about the disputed islands and the safety of the people on the vessel.
"That's why I was among the crowd just now, supporting them like everyone else," he said.
To said he was there because he supported the cause and several of the people on board the returning boat were his friends.
"It has nothing to do with any political party or election," he said. "I'm not afraid of being accused of publicity-seeking, because I'm not."
Fung said he came because his organisation, the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, was involved in defending China's claim to the islands.
Fred Li Wah-ming of the Democratic Party brought a fruit basket for the activists to show his party's gratitude. Li said he was not worried if some people felt he was using the event for exposure because he believed the public would make the right judgment.
"I am not a candidate … and the Democratic Party has been involved in defending the Diaoyu Islands for more than a decade."
Also contesting super seats are the Democratic Party's Albert Ho Chun-yan, the DAB's Starry Lee Wai-king, trade unionist Chan Yuen-han and independent Pamela Peck Wan-kam.