Eight activists from Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland who sailed to the Diaoyu Islands to claim them for China appeared on the cover of Asia Weekly as “people of the year”.
Lauded as national heroes in the Chinese-language magazine are captain Yeung Hong, vessel owner Lo Chau, Tsang Kin-shing, Koo Sze-yiu, Wong Fah-man, Lo Chung-cheong, Ng Shek-yiu from Macau and Fang Xiaosong from the mainland.
A total of 14 people embarked on a voyage aboard fishing vessel Kai Fung No 2 on August 12 to assert Chinese sovereignty over the disputed islands. They made a triumphant return to Tsim Sha Tsui 11 days later after encountering drama with Japanese authorities near the islands.
Seven members of the group managed to land on the main island and pitch China's national flag - the first time since 1996. All seven were profiled by Asia Weekly; Wong, who stayed on the boat, was commended for carrying the national flag.
Asia Weekly's first 2013 edition commended their efforts and briefly profiled each of the eight activists.
The 4,500-word report took Kai Fung No 2 as a point of departure and touched on issues such as patriotism, the wave of anti-Japan mass protests in mainland cities in September, cross-strait relations and Sino-Japan relations.
“The voyagers presented a pure patriotic emotion,” said the report. “Although the activists are from the grass roots, they were able to sail across the waves of political diplomatic storms.”
They “overturned Japan’s practice of nationalising the Diaoyu Islands”.
“How can we talk of China’s patriotism when the sons and daughters of high officials are all shunning their obligations and enjoying their lives overseas?"
In September, tensions over China and Japan's competing territorial claims on the Diaoyus spilled over into rowdy anti-Japanese protests in mainland cities. Beijing clamped down on the rallies soon after.
The Asia Weekly report coined the term “rational patriotism” and rendered the violent protests in September to have “polluted the purity of patriotism”.
It concluded that the voyage embodied “new hopes for China’s national sovereignty, dignity and political reform”, and that “Kai Fung No 2 unquestionably remains in everyone’s heart”.