Excitement, fear. Boats full of Japanese coastguards zoom past as the fishing vessel New Ocean, out of Kaohsiung, ploughs through choppy seas. No one on board is in any doubt that we are the centre of attention and these immaculately outfitted coastguards mean business. They are going to use force to get rid of us, I suddenly thought, shedding a warmer feeling that the expedition would be trouble-free after the Japanese showed no response to the slogans hurled at them. But others on board send a shudder through me: 'You never know what they'll do next; they have guns on their belts.' Speedboats, each crewed by six guards in white helmets and gloves, criss-cross our bow. They watch our every move. An officer at the prow of a larger boat videotapes us. Then silence. The New Ocean, just 70 metres from our target, cuts its engine and begins to roll in the swell. Hong Kong protester Yuen Man-huen, struggling to keep his balance on the rocking deck, steps up to the bow and waves a banner - 'Japanese get out of Chinese territory immediately'. He waves vigorously, defiantly. Then, briefly, we make contact, as Lai Chi-cheung uses his protest flag to fend off the nearest of the Japanese boats. This is more than a political protest. As one member of the group says: 'I am not famous, just an ordinary Hong Kong citizen with no political affiliation. What I am doing is just fulfilling my responsibility - something every Chinese should do.'