Last 7 members of islands' mission come home to flowers and cheering
When the fishing boat Kai Fung No 2 drew alongside the public pier at Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui on Wednesday, a crowd of supporters erupted in cheers. On board were seven activists from the group of 14 Chinese who sailed to the Diaoyu Islandsto assert China's sovereignty.
Bouquets and floral wreathes were given to the seven as they set foot on the pier. Among the enthusiastic welcoming crowd were the other seven members of the mission who flew back to Hong Kong last week.
Activist Henry Wong Fah-man is greeted by supporters in Hong Kong after returning from the Diaoyu Islands on the fishing vessel Kai Fung No 2 on Wednesday. [Photo/Agencies]
The boat entered Hong Kong waters around 8 pm on Tuesday after four and half days at sea on a journey slowed by mechanical problems. It tied up briefly at Cheung Chau, where four crew members were to reunite with family members on Wednesday morning at the end of their 10-day ordeal.
The group of 14 sailed for the Diaoyu Islands on Aug 12. They managed to evade a Japanese attempt to block their passage. Five members of the mission landed on the island on Aug 15 and flew the Chinese flag, shouting "defend China's territory", and "Japan get out of the Diaoyu Islands". After negotiations between the two countries, seven members of the group flew back to Hong Kong on Aug 17 while the rest of the group decided to sail back with the fishing boat.
The owner of the boat, Lo Hom-chau, attributed the trip's success to the activists' determination that there would be "no turning back" once they started the voyage. "Japanese patrol ships were shooting water cannons at us and ramming into our boat, which caused it to take on water and everything on the boat was scattered," Lo said.
Lo expressed his regrets to his companions that he had prepared food for only two days and half the gasoline oil needed.
Lo, who stayed on the boat during mission, said he hoped that one day he could set foot on the island. Lo also thanked the public for its support in the "defending of Diaoyu Islands".
A crew member, Cheung Kam-moon, who took his two sons on the voyage, said the hull of the ship was damaged when it was hit by the Japanese vessels, and the handrail on the deck and the glass of the cabin were also struck. "Luckily, the bottom of the ship is not damaged. The boat still needs a thorough check," said Cheung.
Still, Cheung said he would go to the islands again if given another chance. Cheung's daughter, who didn't know her father was the one steering the boat to the island until Cheung appeared on TV, said she would support Cheung if he insists on going to the island again, but she doesn't want him get hurt.
The captain of the vessel, Yeung Hong, described the mission as "successful", saying he is very happy to be back and didn't expect so many people to welcome the group home. Yeung said the trip was a victory of strategy and tactics, including taking advantage of the mishaps of Japan Coast Guard patrol ships.
Yeung said when he returned to the ship after placing the Chinese flag on the island, he cried for five minutes out of joy and pride. Yeung said he is considering writing a travel log about the 10-day trip and will think about making the log public.
After leaving the pier, the group went to celebrate, mission accomplished.
Charles Lo Chung-cheon, one of the seven activists who flew back to Hong Kong, said on a radio program that the group had brought three stones from the island but lost them when they arrived at Hong Kong International Airport. One of the stones was to have been given to the Hong Kong Museum of History. Lo asked that anyone who may have found a red plastic bag with three stones inside return it.
In another move, activists in Taiwan said on Wednesday they are preparing to build a temple of a Taoist sea goddess on the Diaoyu Islands.
"We have started to raise funds to build a temple for Mazu on the Diaoyu Islands, so the goddess can protect the safety of our fishermen and bless their work," said Tony Huang. He said a key religious ritual needed to set up the temple has already been completed.
Taiwan activists are also planning to sail to the disputed islands again, even though they were forced to abort a plan last week after failing to hire a ship, he said.
However, a senior Japanese police officer said on Tuesday the Japanese police will sue any Chinese citizens landing on the Diaoyu Islands in the future, without letting them easily leave Japan as the Chinese activists did this time.
Japan's coast guard chief said on Tuesday that Japan will never allow Chinese citizens to land on the Diaoyu Islands "no matter what happens".
In another move, the Japanese government on Wednesday accepted a revised application from Tokyo prefectural government to land on the Diaoyu Islands on Aug 29, without announcing whether it will approve the plan.
Zhou Yongsheng, an expert on Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said Chinese citizens who try to land on the Diaoyu Islands in the future will face much tougher moves from Japan than this time.
"But we have seen that activists from Taiwan are making every preparation," Zhou said.
He said Taiwan's leader Ma Ying-jeou is trying to contain the situation, "but he also has to respect public opinion".
Still, the professor did not foresee military conflicts in the region in the near future.
Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com