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Japanese protester sets himself on fire

Emergency services in Tokyo at the site of the mans protest. Picture: AP

Emergency services in Tokyo at the site of the mans protest. Picture: AP

  • by ELAINE KURTENBACH in TOKYO
 

A MAN set himself on fire in central Tokyo in protest at a proposed law which could allow Japan to deploy its military overseas.

Japan’s government could make the change to its pacifist constitution tomorrow.

Currently, the US-drafted constitution bans war and “the threat or use of force” to settle international disputes.

Japan’s cabinet is expected to approve a proposal calling for the right to “collective self-defence,” which would allow Japan to play a more assertive role in international security amid China’s growing military presence and rising regional tensions.

Japan currently limits its participation, even in UN peacekeeping activities, to non-combat roles.

The man who set himself alight was taken to hospital after being hosed down but officials have yet to say if he survived and, if so, what his condition is.

He set fire to himself at Shinjuku railway station yesterday in what appears to be a rare violent political protest.

The man, who eyewitnesses say appeared to be aged in his 50s, was taken to hospital after suffering serious injuries said Daiji Kubota, an officer at the Shinjuku police station. He said the man’s identity and the reason for the self-immolation was under investigation.

Footage of the incident on social media showed a man wearing a suit and tie sitting on a small mat along the metal framework above a pedestrian walkway with two plastic bottles of what looked like petrol beside him.

Witnesses said the man spoke through a megaphone to protest at the government’s moves to change Japan’s defence policy, doused himself with petrol and set himself alight as hundreds of people watched from below and from nearby buildings.

Television reports showed firefighters pulling the man down on to the pedestrian bridge walkway and extinguishing the fire.

“He was sitting cross-legged and was just talking,” one eyewitness said. “Then all of a sudden his body was enveloped in fire.”

Japan has well-equipped and well-trained armed forces but there are severe restrictions on them being deployed abroad.

Under article 9 of its post-war pacifist constitution, Japan is blocked from the use of force to resolve conflicts except in the case of self-defence.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, says he wants a new interpretation of the constitution to be agreed.

But critics say any shift in policy would undermine the war-renouncing article 9 of Japan’s constitution.

The move has split opinion inside the country. Critics warn against what they see as increasing militarism, while conservatives argue that the restriction is a double standard forced upon Japan.

Mr Abe’s plan has led to criticism from China, whose relations with Japan have become strained over territorial disputes in the East China Sea. The move will probably please the US, with whom Japan has a long-standing security treaty.

 

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