Hong Kong protesters aboard a tanker steaming towards the Diaoyu Islands were alarmed yesterday when the captain said they might have to dodge shooting by the Japanese Navy. Ngai Lup-chee announced gravely that the Kien Hwa No 2 might have to change course, swinging sharply to the east, because Japan had declared it would be holding a live-fire military exercise on his planned route. He said he had heard the bad news from NAVTEX, the navigational broadcast to all shipping. It was only after the 20 protesters and a host of journalists on board had been whipped into a frenzy of anger at the prospect of being shot at by the Diaoyu 'invaders' that the mistake was uncovered. It was the skipper himself who was off target. It turned out that the shooting would not be from a hostile confrontation with Japan's military might, but friendly fire from the Taiwanese Navy. Mr Ngai, with more than 20 years' experience at sea, had simply got it wrong. But not before those on board called a council of war, families at home had panicked, and newsrooms across Hong Kong had been asked to send helicopters for an airlift to safety. The Japanese Maritime Defence Force knew of no military manoeuvres. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang had heard nothing. But then spoke Taipei. Its navy was putting to sea, and yes, it would be shooting real bullets today and again over the weekend - just as it did last week. And, rest assured, none would be directed at the Kien Hwa No 2.