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Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006

H.K. activist boat turned back from Senkakus

Staff writer

A boat carrying protesters from Hong Kong tried to approach Japanese-held islets Friday morning in the East China Sea but was turned back after being challenged by Japan Coast Guard vessels, JCG officials said.

News photo
A Japan Coast Guard cutter aims water Friday at a protest boat from Hong Kong near the disputed Japan-controlled Senkaku islets in the East China Sea. KYODO PHOTO

Ignoring warnings from JCG patrol boats, the 30-meter Baodiao 2, which was reportedly carrying 26 activists, entered Japanese controlled waters Friday morning near the uninhabited Senkaku islets, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, the JCG officials said.

Claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan, the rocky islets have become a sore point in relations, particularly between Tokyo and Beijing.

The activists were apparently marking the 10th anniversary of the drowning of Hong Kong activist David Chan, who had jumped into the sea in an attempt to land on the islets in September 1996.

Members of the Hong-Kong based Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands were reportedly aboard the boat, which was flying a Chinese flag.

The vessel came within 13 km of the islets, which are patrolled by the JCG. The boat turned back after remaining in the area for a short time, the official said.

Using bullhorns, the JCG vessels warned the boat to halt and turn around. When the warnings were ignored, they hit the vessel with water cannons and blocked its path.

The coast guard first spotted the vessel at 5:15 am., 85 km west-southwest of the islets. The boat entered Japanese-controlled waters at 9:21 a.m. and left the area 11:35 a.m., the JCG officials said.

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