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Island protest ship leaves Japan waters

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Publication Date : 19-08-2012


A Hong Kong protest vessel carrying seven Chinese activists deported from Japan for their involvement in an illegal landing on one of the Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu) left Japanese territorial waters early yesterday, the Japan Coast Guard said.

According to the JCG, the activist boat passed south of the Senkakus and was heading for Hong Kong on a route through the Taiwan Strait.

Seven protesters illegally landed on Uotsurijima island, part of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, on Wednesday.

A JCG patrol vessel was travelling alongside the protest vessel in case the crew took any suspicious actions, such as turning around and heading back toward the Senkakus.

The JCG will continue its patrol activities in seas near the Senkaku islets for the time being.

After the illegal landing, a Chinese official vessel appeared in waters off the Senkakus' Kubashima island between Wednesday night and dawn on Thursday.

However, the JCG said there had been no significant incidents in the area since then.

According to the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, the protest vessel departed from Ishigaki Port at 9:25 p.m. Friday and left Japanese territorial waters at a point about 22 kilometres northwest of Iriomotejima island at about 1:10 a.m. yesterday.

As of 8:30 a.m. yesterday, the protest vessel had turned west-northwest in the East China Sea, apparently toward the Taiwan Strait, the JCG said.

The JCG said its patrol vessel sailing near the protest boat had seen no signs of suspicious movements.

The JCG patrol boat will travel parallel to the vessel until it crosses the median line between Japan and Taiwan in the East China Sea.

No resistance to arrest

The Chinese activists who were arrested on or near the Senkaku Islands on charges of violating the immigration control law on Wednesday hardly resisted arrest, it has been learned.

The Japan Coast Guard and other authorities considered charging them with obstruction of official duties but judged they were just protesters who wanted to make a name for themselves by landing on the island, as they did not exhibit obstructive behaviour. The government deferred criminal punishment and made the decision to have immigration authorities deport them.

Of the seven activists who landed on Uotsurijima island, five were arrested on the spot but did not resist when they were restrained. Two returned to the boat.

The activists' boat was stopped when it was sandwiched between two JCG patrol boats. The rest of the crew, including the captain, were then also arrested.

According to sources close to the JCG, patrol boats warned the Chinese boat to exit territorial waters using an electronic signboard and loudspeakers. After the warning, JCG boats forced the Chinese to stop by pressing their ships against the boat. At that time, activists threw concrete blocks onto the patrol boats, but they were barely damaged and no JCG officers were injured. As the damage was minor, the patrol boats were still able to navigate with ease, the sources said.

When a Chinese fishing boat intruded into Japanese territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands in September 2010, the boat, which was ordered to stop, collided against a JCG patrol boat. The JCG deemed the conduct was vicious behaviour to obstruct the JCG's on-site inspection and arrested the Chinese captain on suspicion of obstructing officers from performing their duties.

In the latest illegal landing case, Japanese authorities also considered applying the same charges to the activists but concluded their behaviour was not strong enough to be considered obstruction of official duties.


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