By Li Hongmei, Sina English
In July 1996, a group of Japanese right wingers sailed to the Diaoyu Islands, and set up a lighthouse and placed a Japanese flag over the rocky hills. The action infringed Chinese sovereignty and aroused public indignation and brought waves of furious protest from Chinese communities worldwide.
The culmination of this anger was the dispatch of the ship, Protecting Diaoyu Islands (Baodiao Hao), by Hong Kong activists for the Islands, on September 22, 1996.
Chen Yuxiang (David Chan) and others sailed the ship into the area around the island on September 26, 1996. The ship was stopped by a vessel of the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency. Chen Yuxiang and several other Hong Kong compatriots jumped into the sea to protest. Chen drowned in the rough seas. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed the government's sorrow at his death and expressed sympathy to his family.
In June 2003, 15 activists, including Yin Minhong, from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong joined forces to sail to the Diaoyu Islands to proclaim them as Chinese property. It was the first time that activists from the mainland joined the patriotic cause.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry reaffirmed China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and its unswerving determination to defend the country's land in the wake of the two sailings by Chinese volunteers. Meanwhile, it said that China's consistent position to solve the dispute through consultation had not changed.