There is little point now in debating the wisdom of the ill-fated expedition to the Diaoyu Islands. Whether it was hasty, hot-headed, perhaps even immature has become completely irrelevant. The protest cost David Chan Yuk-cheung his life yesterday. However futile his sacrifice may seem in the aftermath of this tragic affair, there is no question that he felt so strongly about the sovereignty of the rocky group of islands that he was perfectly prepared to take whatever risks lay in his path in order to make his personal protest to the Government of Japan. When the rusting freighter set off from Victoria Harbour four days ago in a carnival of flag-waving fervour nothing seemed less likely than that it would become a funeral barque. What makes the outcome doubly tragic is that it was all so unnecessary. Not because Chan and his fellow protester members were always unlikely to achieve their goal of reclaiming the islands for China, but because the whole escalating dispute over the Diaoyu Islands has been allowed to get progressively out of hand amid a crescendo of memories of historic conflicts and crimes. It takes very little to bring emotions such as those bequeathed by Japan's aggression surging back. It was inevitable that, when the group of Japanese extremists trespassed on the privately-owned islands to erect a lighthouse and paint their country's flag, they would trigger off emotions in Chinese hearts, setting their spark to a legacy of invasion, occupation and events of lasting pain. The tragedy is that it could so easily have been avoided, with no loss of face on any side. All that was required was for the Japanese Government to remove the contentious structure and the painted flag. To do so would have had no bearing on sovereignty. It would simply have been a wise diplomatic gesture. Tokyo failed to make that gesture, and now a man is dead. If this convinces Japan of how serious the matter is and how strongly the Chinese people feel, Chan's death may not have been in vain. The simple gesture which could have been taken at the outset should be taken immediately. If domestic political considerations prevent that, many will draw the conclusion that Japanese chauvinism is still a force that the region needs to be concerned about.