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Protesters racing to Senkakus ahead of Japanese

Date Posted: 2012-08-17

A Chinese protest vessel is headed toward the Senkaku Islands in Japan, racing to beat a group of Japanese who plan to set foot on the disputed-yet-uninhabited islands on Sunday.

The vessel Bao Diao II is en route from Hong Kong carrying activists who are demanding “Japan out of the Diaoyu islands! Down with Japanese militarism.” Those were the chants as the group staged an impromptu show in front of mainland tourists and local residents at Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui pier. The vessel, says activist group chairman Chan Miu-tak, was to be joined by a couple more ships this week, once coming from Xiamen in southern China and another from Taiwan.

Chan, who heads Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, says the “protect Diaoyu” boat is conducting a coordinated sailing mission. “Japanese lawmakers are planning to land on the islands on August 19th, so we want to reach there before they do,” says Chan. “The Diaoyu islands are Chinese territory,” he insists. “We will fight for the sovereignty of the Chinese nation.

The Bao Diao II’s owner, Lo Chau, says he hopes Hong Kong authorities will not interfere with the plan to go to the Diaoyu islands, which Japan claims sovereignty to under the name Senkaku Islands. “Japan invaded China,” he adds, “and today they invade the Diaoyu islands. In the past, Hong Kong has barred protest vessels from leaving Hong Kong waters.

Beijing, although adamant the islands belong to China, has been cautious about permitting civilian protests to set up direct confrontations with Japan, and Hong Kong’s been following the same practice. Hong Kong activists have asked China to send a military escort to protect them aboard the Bao Diao II, noting Taiwan’s sent coast guard vessels to escort and protect its protesters when they sailed to the Senkaku Islands last month.

All three countries –China, Japan and Taiwan—claim sovereignty over the uninhabited islands located 186km northeast of the port city of Keelung on the northeast coast of Taiwan, and 170kim north of Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture.

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