By Li Hongmei, Special to Sina English
Japan set to 'deport' Diaoyu activists today
Japan has decided to "deport" Chinese activists who landed on the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea at the heart of a territorial row, Kyodo news agency reported yesterday, while China renewed its call that the detainees be released immediately and unconditionally.
Seven of the 14 Chinese nationals arrested, including two journalists, waded ashore and planted a Chinese flag on one of the rocky, uninhabited islands on Wednesday.
All the 14 would be sent home as early as today, Kyodo reported.
They have been arrested for "violating" Japanese immigration law. Kyodo, citing unnamed government sources, said they would be handed over to immigration officials "possibly Friday."
"They all deny the allegation of illegal entry, saying the islands are part of Chinese territory," a local police spokesman said.
Jiji Press said cabinet ministers would meet this morning to discuss the landing.
The five Chinese activists arrested by Japanese police after landing on Diaoyu Islands were sent to Naha, Okinawa yesterday.
The five handcuffed Chinese activists got off a patrol boat of Japan Coast Guard at Naha Port, shouting out, "Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory" to Japanese media.
Soon after arrival, the five activists got on five separate vehicles. Okinawa police said they would be sent to different locations for investigation.
The authorities would determine whether to send them to public prosecutors or deport them after examining the purpose of their landing, police said.
The nine other Chinese were also transferred to Naha yesterday afternoon by the coast guard.
The 14 Chinese nationals, despite obstruction by Japanese Coast Guard patrol ships, arrived at Diaoyu Islands by a Hong Kong fishing vessel on Wednesday to assert China's territorial claim to the islands.
China dispatched embassy officials from Tokyo and Hong Kong immigration officials to assist the activists. The five who landed on the islands were in good condition, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said last night.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, in a phone call with a Japanese foreign ministry official yesterday, urged that Japan immediately and unconditionally release the people and the vessel.
Small protests were held sporadically amid tight security near Japan's embassy in Beijing and Japanese consulate in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
A handful of protesters shouted anti-Japanese slogans outside the embassy in Beijing yesterday.
Dozens of people protested at the Japanese consulate in Hong Kong yesterday, demanding Japan release the Chinese nationals.
Members of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions waved Chinese flags and chanted slogans such as "Down with Japanese militarism" and "Get out of our Diaoyu Islands."
In Shanghai, around 20 people waved Chinese flags, hoisted banners that read "return our Diaoyu Islands, release our brave warriors," and shouted slogans outside the Japanese consulate.
A Japanese nationalist group is sponsoring a weekend trip by some lawmakers and others to waters near the Diaoyu Island, although the Japanese government has denied permission to land.
China's Commerce Ministry yesterday urged the Japanese government to handle the issue properly.
Reclaiming the Diaoyu Islands: a volunteer's memoir
On October 9, 2003, Chinese volunteers from the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong jointly sailed to the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea for the first time. They successfully reached the vicinity of the island. Yin Minhong was among the ten volunteers. He offered to tell the story of his journey on a later occasion
Yin, 25, was born in Qunfeng Township, Zhuzhou County, Hunan Province. He joined the army upon his graduation from a three-year course on traditional Chinese medicine and three years later, he retired and attended university. He was once auditor at Peking University. He has sailed twice as a volunteer to claim China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. His first cruise happened in June 2003.
Diaoyu Islands near at hand: Yin Minhong
"At noon on October 9 our boat was only 20 sea miles from the Diaoyu Islands. Many of us stepped up to the row one after another. Just at the moment, we found a Japanese warship and helicopter appeared and chased us. Later the warship sailed parallel with our boat and even displayed two scrolls with words of warnings on them. Dismissing their presence, we sailed on steadily to the Diaoyu Islands. We kept great restraint and sense to avoid head-on conflict with the Japanese warship," Yin said.
"But it's really burning humiliation to be warned and intervened by the Japanese on our own territorial waters! We gradually speeded forward and more Japanese warships and aircrafts gathered around and above us. Eventually eight Japanese warships, three helicopters and two warplanes besieged us. The Japanese warships sailed before the row of our boat in turns to prevent us from approaching the islands. The Japanese ships stirred billows and it would have been really disastrous if our boat had collided with theirs. On the other hand, the Japanese planes and helicopters performed hedgehop above us. Despite this our boat got nearer and nearer to the Diaoyu Islands and we even clearly saw the green trees on them. At last we were just about 200 meters from the islands!
"Seeing that we charged all out toward the islands, crews of the Japanese ships began to get so anxious that they dispatched two high-speed patrol boats, namely, DS-03 and DS-06, to converge on our boat. Meanwhile sirens screamed harshly from their planes and helicopters. The two patrol boats squeezed and bumped on our boat and we had to stop. We got very indignant and took eggs out of our food cabin and threw them at the uniformed Japanese guards wearing steel helmets. And we shouted to them: 'Japanese get out of the Diaoyu Islands!' I recorded the whole scene with a video camera," Yin recalled, full of pity and indignation.
Background: The Issue of the Diaoyu Islands
Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands lie in the East China Sea, around 92 nautical miles northeast of Chilung City, Taiwan Province, China. They cover a total area of 6.3 square km. Of all the islands, Diaoyu Island is the biggest with an area of about 4.3 square km.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Diaoyu Islands appeared in Chinese documents and were regarded as Chinese territory. The Japanese claimed to "discover" the islets only in the late 19th century, and named them Senkakus.
According to official Japanese maps published before 1895, the Diaoyu Islands were not represented.
The government of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki (Maguan) with Japan in 1895 after it lost the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 (launched by Japan to annex Korea and invade China). This was in effect until the end of World War II, when Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945 and later accepted the Potsdam Declaration.
According to the Shimonoseki Treaty, Taiwan and all its adjacent islands, including the Diaoyu Islands, were ceded to Japan by the Qing government. Since then, Japan added the Diaoyu Islands to its maps published after 1895.
In 1945, the Japanese Government accepted the Potsdam Declaration, which stipulated that Japan must return all territories it seized from China. From then on, the Diaoyu Islands were deleted from Japanese maps.
Such a change actually meant that Japan returned the Diaoyu Islands to China. In 1971 the US government transferred the rights of administration over the islets to the Japanese, without, however, admitting that Japan had that sovereignty. In the same year, the Japanese government announced that the Diaoyu Islands belonged to Japan, which showed that Japan was in conflict of its commitment to the Potsdam Declaration. Now it tightly controls access to the island area.
Indignant at the US and Japanese moves on the Diaoyu Islands, Chinese people all over the world, including Chinese students studying in North America, have organized numerous campaigns to claim China's sovereignty over the islands since the 1970s.
The importance of the Diaoyu Islands is not in the desolate island itself but in the rumored rich oil reserves beneath, and the fishing rights over the area too. And symbolically, to the Chinese, the Diaoyu Islands are a clear barometer of Japanese expansionist sentiment.
Defending the Diaoyu Islands to the end
"To defend the Diaoyu Islands will be a long-term undertaking and we'll mobilize more people and ships for our future actions," said Yin Minhong, the 2003 "defending the Diaoyu Islands" vanguard and still an enthusiast on the cause.
The issue centered around the Diaoyu Islands has far evolved into a political weigh, a mirror to Japan’s forting policy in the post-WWII era, and the weather vane heralding the Sino-Japanese relations.