With the precision of a military operation, a group of Hong Kong activists attended to every detail to ensure their mission to the disputed Senkaku Islands would be a resounding success.
The Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands has attempted similar forays in the East China Sea in the past. China calls the islands Diaoyu.
The committee set up a support headquarters in Hong Kong just as the fishing boat departed for the Senkaku Islands. The five members who landed on Aug. 15 were arrested by Okinawa prefectural police on suspicion of illegal entry and are expected to be deported as early as Aug. 17, along with nine others who remained on the boat.
Chan Yu-nam, who was in charge of the support headquarters, said in response to questions from The Asahi Shimbun, "We were successful because a group member served as captain of the boat."
Although the group had tried a number of times in recent years to sail to the Senkaku Islands, individuals hired to serve as captains were hesitant to make the trip in the face of pressure from the Hong Kong government.
Another leading member of the group said, "Those individuals feared they would have their shipping license revoked."
Three years ago, two members of the group learned how to navigate at sea. One of those individuals, a 45-year-old pro-democracy activist, served as captain on the latest outing.
The group also spent HK$500,000 (5 million yen, or $63,000) to refit the boat for the journey.
The committee was established in 1996 by individuals associated with the pro-democracy movement battling the Chinese government.
In September 1996, five members of the group tried to land on the Senkaku Islands by first jumping into the sea, but one individual died.
The next month, the group worked together with a private-sector group on Taiwan and sent about 50 fishing boats to the Senkaku Islands. Four members landed at that time.
In recent years, a business executive with ties to the Chinese government has served as an adviser to the group and helped to pay for the purchase and repairs of boats. However, the group itself does not have close ties to the Chinese government.
"There is absolutely no relationship," said Chan Miu-tak, the group's leader.
Before the latest trip, the group tried to hand over a document to Chinese troops based in Hong Kong asking for their support, but the document was not accepted.
Since 2007, the Hong Kong government had stopped attempts to sail to the Senkaku Islands. However, in the latest case, local media reports said the Hong Kong government consented because the Chinese government gave tacit approval.
The five activists carried both the Chinese and Taiwanese flags when they landed on Uotsurishima island. Activists from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan formed a federation last year to defend the islands.
The various member groups have exchanged information about purchasing boats and navigating to the Senkaku Islands, and there are plans for a joint voyage.
At a meeting of that federation held in Hong Kong in January, an agreement was reached to carry the flags of all the related nations, regardless of which group actually landed. Under that agreement, a Taiwan flag was given to the Hong Kong action committee before the latest trip. No protest ship from China joined the boats on the latest trip.
(This article was written by Kentaro Koyama in Hong Kong and Takio Murakami in Taipei.)
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